USDA stops using beetles vs. invasive saltcedar

Monday, June 21, 2010 | 3:52 p.m. CDT; updated 5:17 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The federal government has declared a cease-fire in its biological war against saltcedar, a nonnative tree that has taken over riparian areas across the West.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week formally ended a program of releasing saltcedar leaf beetles to control saltcedar. Beetles no longer will be released in 13 states: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming.

The agency scrapped the beetle program because saltcedar provides important habitat for bird species including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.

Alan Dowdy with the USDA says the beetles have been effective — too effective for the good of birds that have come to rely on saltcedar.

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