Does Anyone Have a Flyswatter? - California city trying to provide land for 'flyways' for the benefit of endangered flies

Liberty Matters News Service


Colton, California, has the dubious honor of being the location of an infestation of the endangered Dehli Sands flower-loving fly.

The city is trying to provide land for "flyways" the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service says are necessary for the protection and well-being of the flies.

The city has tried for seven years to provide habitat for the flies, but private landowners don't want to negotiate.

"They are in denial or incredulous that some of their land isn't worth market value because of the presence of the fly," said City Manager, Daryl Parrish.

Colton City officials have resorted to requesting the use of $425,000 in federal poverty funds to destroy portions of some roads to make room for the insects and provide funds for their upkeep.

It all seems an exercise in futility since biologists don't even know how many flies exist because they only emerge from their underground haunts once a year to mate and then die.

The Dehli has been a fly in Colton's ointment since it was declared endangered in 1993.

Its presence has cost the city an estimated $300 million in lost investments and 700 to 1,000 jobs because companies do not want to jump through ridiculous environmental hoops for a fly.

Protection of the fly has cost taxpayers dearly, too.

San Bernardino County was forced to move the location of the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center 250 feet at a cost of $3 million to avoid disturbing alleged fly habitat.

Two years ago, when someone thought he had seen a handful of the flies where the city was planning to build a $12 million baseball park, the city had to find a different location, which cost taxpayers another $1.2 million.


New twist in fight over fly - Colton, CA wants to use anti-poverty funds to create and maintain habitat for an insect.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

By ELLEN BRAUNSTEIN / The Press-Enterprise

COLTON - Most cities use community development block grants to construct
senior centers, build sidewalks or renovate houses in low-income

But the Colton City Council wants to use $452,000 in federal poverty funds
to destroy roads and open a trust fund for a fly.

The plan to rip up streets to create insect "flyways" and endow a
maintenance fund must first pass muster with the county, which distributes
the grants, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Neither is a sure thing.
However, Colton's proposal illustrates the lengths to which the city must go
to satisfy the federal agency's legal responsibility to establish wildlife
preserves for the endangered Delhi Sands flower-loving fly.

Safeguarding the shrinking breeding grounds of the only fly to receive
federal protection under the Endangered Species Act has cost this
blue-collar city an estimated $300 million in lost investments and 700 to
1,000 jobs, city officials say. Companies decide to go elsewhere to avoid
the hassles of meeting the act's requirements.

The 1½-inch-long winged insect emerges from sandy soils for a few days every
summer to mate, breed and die. A life spent underground makes it impossible
for biologists to determine how many exist.

The destruction of the fly's habitat can trigger the extinction of many more
species that depend on the same habitat, said Greg Ballmer, UC Riverside
research associate and entomologist.

His advocacy propelled the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly to the endangered
species list in 1993.

Fish and Wildlife, the federal agency charged with protecting endangered
species, requires landowners to set aside acreage for fly habitat in
exchange for the right to build. The agency also asks cities to maintain the

Colton feels squeeze

Developers and officials in Ontario, Fontana, Rialto and Mira Loma also
wrangle with the federal government over development projects that could
ruin fly habitat.

But the pressure from Fish and Wildlife to conserve land is especially keen
in Colton, where the biggest and highest-quality habitat remains untouched.

For seven years, the city has tried to work with Fish and Wildlife to
preserve land for the fly. But most of the private landowners that control
the 500-plus acres of Colton habitat don't want to negotiate, City Manager
Daryl Parrish said.

"They are in denial or incredulous that some of their land isn't worth
market value because of the presence of the fly," he said.

Colton decided this year to go it alone, scraping up what little fly habitat
it can trade so other land can be developed.

And scrape they will. Officials want to spend federal dollars to rip up and
close sections of four public streets, including Slover Avenue, a mecca for
illegal dumpers. The narrow strips plus a 10-acre parcel at the city-owned
Hermosa Cemetery would be dedicated to the fly habitat.

The corridors, or "flyways," would connect larger habitat parcels, city
officials say.

An environmentalist called the flyways a meaningless stab at conservation.

"If land around it is not protected, the flyways wouldn't have any use,"
said John Hopkins, president of the Institute for Ecological Health in

If Fish and Wildlife approves Colton's plan, a four-acre parcel southeast of
Arrowhead Regional Medical Center could be turned into hotels, shops and

The plan would also allow the city to expand a public cemetery by seven

In exchange, the city would cede 18 acres for fly habitat.

The 18 acres - 10 from another section of the cemetery and eight from closed roads - is a miserly offer by Fish and Wildlife standards.

The agency typically asks for three or more acres of preserve for each acre
developed, a ratio Colton has rejected as too costly. Fewer acres would be
required for the fly if the habitat offered is deemed to be of high quality,
said Jane Hendron, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman in Carlsbad.

City lawyers are still preparing the plan to submit to Fish and Wildlife.
Negotiations could take months, if not years.

But the plan is raising eyebrows with a county official whose job it is to
ensure that block-grant proposals meet federal guidelines.

Drawing skepticism

David Larsen, a county compliance officer, said that the Board of
Supervisors would not approve a $200,000 insect trust fund to maintain the
fly habitat, as the city's proposal suggests.

Colton got the board's OK in January to use the federal funds to purchase
fly habitat so a trucking company could expand into another fly parcel and
add 30 employees.

Expanding economic activity is a permitted use for the grants. Though that
deal fell through, Colton officials assumed, according to a staff report,
that the funds could be applied to a different kind of land swap.

Colton Assistant City Manager Al Holliman said the city is now backing away
from its plan to use part of the grant for an endowment fund. The city will
make sure that any plan approved by Fish and Wildlife will be acceptable to
the county, he said.

The area's history offers some explanation why Colton is saddled with so
much fly habitat that is also prime commercial real estate.

Colton, historically a railroad center, lagged behind neighboring
communities in approving agricultural and commercial development that has
destroyed all but 2 percent of the fly's sand-dune ecosystem. The Delhi Soil
Series or Colton Dunes, as they are also called, once stretched 40 square
miles from Colton to Chino and included portions of northwest Riverside

Like the last player standing in a game of musical chairs, Colton was left
with the largest concentration of unspoiled dunes in 1993 when the fly was
listed under the Endangered Species Act. The listing stymied development
while biologists conducted two-year surveys to determine if the land was
occupied by the fly.

The cost to taxpayers soon began to mount. San Bernardino County was forced
to shift the site of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center 250 feet to avoid
disturbing a sand pit in which the fly was believed to breed. The move cost
taxpayers $3 million.

The sighting of a handful of flies two years ago required Colton to find a
new location for a $12 million baseball park at a $1.2 million loss to

City crews are also prohibited from cleaning blighted land in Colton because
a garbage truck might scoop up fly larvae.



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