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American Burying Beetle brings new problem for pipeline
The American burying beetle can detect a dead animal from miles away and then buries it to hide it from other predators. That same tiny bug could challenge the Keystone XL Pipeline project.
The American burying beetle calls the Sand hills of Nebraska home. And the original Keystone XL Pipeline project would have gutted their habitat.
Who would have thought a polarizing topic like the pipeline could come down to beetles?
Meet the American burying beetle. They vary in size, love the nighttime, and can even fly.
"American burying beetles are really easy to identify because a lot of people are familiar with the black and orange on the back but only the burying beetle has this orange marking on the pronator on the front," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Robert Harms.
You're probably wondering what they eat for dinner?
"They rely on feeding on carion, dead things that are out in the environment," Harms said.
They'll find a creature the size of a ground squirrel and they'll bury it.
Sound appetizing? Well it's actually beneficial.
"They provide a good function of being a recycler in places where there's not a lot of vegetation in the matter of the soil because they decompose those creatures by burying them," said Harms.
Standing at about an inch tall, it takes its home in the Sand hills, which has many double checking the maps.
That's because the beetle is considered an endangered species, which is where the United States Fish and Wildlife Service steps in.
"The big deal is that the previous pipeline route was through the Sand hills, ya know, in the Chambers area and that's like Mecca for the American burying beetle," said Harms.
Which has pipeline critics siding with the beetle.
But the Fish and Wildlife Service did come up with ways to avoid impacts on the insect.
"Those would include the whole capture, relocation process, mowing of grass, removal of carion and wind rowing," Harms said.
A United States Fish and Wildlife Service policy has been changed so researchers cannot trap and remove the beetles until a project has all of their federal and state permits to start construction.
That means, if TransCanada was granted a permit to build their pipeline, then they could start removing the beetles versus trapping them now and starting to build immediately after a permit was granted.
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