JANUARY 27, 2010
In an unbelievable example of government lunacy or at the very least misplaced priorities, state and federal officials are risking human lives to protect a species of insect from extinction.
The bizarre case involves residents of a cliffside Maryland community located about 100 feet above scenic Chesapeake Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. The cliffs are crumbling and the properties are at risk of literally sliding into the bay. A few years ago, a girl was killed on the beach when a chunk of cliff gave way and crushed her.
Residents, who say they regularly hear blocks of cliff falling to the beach below, are desperately trying to stop the erosion and have hired engineers to assess the dire situation. The crisis is affecting dozens of homes and has kept terrified residents, as well as the public in general, from using the beach at the foot of the hills.
State and federal agencies have repeatedly denied logical and valid proposals to remedy the problem because the plans—among them a stone wall—could lead to the extinction of the Puritan Tiger Beetle, a unique insect that thrives only in naturally eroding cliff face with no vegetation.
They point out that the Puritan Tiger Beetle is so rare, it is legally protected by state and federal endangered species laws. After all, the precious bug is found in only two places in the world—the Connecticut River in New England and a small part of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland—and must be preserved. Its population has gone down from 11,000 to 300 in just a few years.
Insect experts claim the drastic population decline of this valued specie is directly associated to the amount of work humans have done to repair drooping shorelines that create serious public safety hazards. The extensive shoring of cliffs required to halt further erosion would doom the remaining population of the Puritan Tiger Beetle.
An official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service puts the tragedy in perspective. "The population numbers are so, so low and limited, any action could result in the extinction of the species," he said. A homeowner counters that he has yet to have any agency convince him that protection of the beetle should trump protection of the people.
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