Almost four years ago, I wrote about an extremely rare (and possibly threatened) tiger beetle that inhabits just a few hundred acres of sand dune habitat in Utah. Less than 1,000 Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetles (Cicindela albissima) are thought to exist. Because the entire known population of this species lives in one small area, it is highly susceptible to any impacts on that habitat. Drought, for example, is already suppressing the beetle's ability to reproduce. One wrong move could literally be the end for the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle.
If there's any hope for this particular beetle, we must be vigilant about limiting impacts on its tiny, tenuous habitat. And therein lies the problem. These sand dunes reside within the boundary of the Coral Sand Dunes State Park, which just so happens to be a very popular place for people to ride off-road vehicles (ORV's).
I suggested earlier, and I will do so again now, that protecting this species is worthy of our effort, even if it means removing this small patch of Earth from the areas open to ORV use. The off-roaders let me know they disagreed with me. Many did so by writing me rather vile emails loaded with expletives and suggestions for what I should do with various parts of my body. They all argued the same point - "It's only one stupid bug!" My reply is simply, "It's only one small patch of dunes!"
Wherever you stand on this issue, now is your chance to express your opinion. The Department of the Interior is accepting public comments on the matter until December 3rd. You'll see, when you look at the comments submitted so far, that the ORV crowd is well-organized on this matter. I hope the insect enthusiasts will speak up as well, and urge the Feds to rely on science when deciding whether to list the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle as a protected species.