Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 12, 2021


Kristine Akland, (406) 544-9863,

Lawsuit Launched to Protect American Burying Beetle From Extinction

Trump’s Gutting of Protections Has Put Vanishing Insect at Immediate Risk

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the Trump administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for downlisting the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened. The Service reduced the species’ level of federal protection despite its own admission that climate change and habitat destruction have put it on the brink of extinction.

“Far from having recovered, this striking orange-and-black beetle is facing dire threats from climate change and habitat destruction,” said Kristine Akland, a staff attorney at the Center. “The Trump administration’s gutting of its protections was nothing but a gift to the oil and gas industry.”

The glamorous-looking beetles, whose curious mating habits involve meeting over an animal carcass that the males can smell from two miles away, were first protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1989. Their downlisting came in response to a 2015 petition from the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which had direct access to Trump administration officials during the process.

The Service’s decision disregarded its own science, which found the American burying beetle continues to “be exposed to the factors that led to listing as well as factors that have come to light since then.” The Service acknowledged that threats to the beetle are causing — and will continue to cause — a dwindling population but came to the illogical and unsupported conclusion that the beetle is on the road to recovery.

“The American burying beetle’s story is not one of success,” said Akland. “The Center brings this challenge because without the protections of endangered status, the American burying beetle will soon join the multitude of species driven to extinction.”

Researchers have called the American burying beetle’s decline “one of the most disastrous declines of an insect’s range ever to be recorded.” Once ubiquitous across the entire eastern United States, the beetle has been extirpated from more than 90% of its historic range. Reports published by the Service predict that within the next 20-40 years, climate change and habitat destruction will cause its extirpation from a further 59% of its current range.

It now lives in a small number of isolated populations in states on the fringes of its range, including Oklahoma, Nebraska and Rhode Island.

American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus). Photo courtesy of Doug Backlund, SD Game, Fish & Parks. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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