Endangered beetles vs. endangered houses

March 23, 2010 at 8:08 PM

LUSBY, Md., March 23 (UPI) -- Homeowners on a stretch of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland are frustrated by an endangered beetle that prevents them from measures to halt cliff erosion.

Marcia Seifert, a retired teacher and insurance company executive, and her friend, Phyllis Bonfield, bought a house 10 years ago in Chesapeake Ranch Estates in Calvert County. Since then, about half their backyard has crumbled to the beach below.

"It would be funny if it weren't so absurd," Seifert told the Baltimore Sun. "We were never told there was an endangered species along the cliff that would prevent us from protecting our homes."

The only known populations of Puritan tiger beetles live in the sand and clay cliffs of Calvert County along one river on Maryland's Eastern Shore and on the Connecticut River in New England. State and federal laws prevent steps that could harm their habitat.

A state Senate committee was considering a bill Tuesday that would allow homeowners to take some steps to stabilize the cliffs without worrying about the beetles. But Lauck Ward, a geologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, said the cliffs are eroding at both bottom and top and efforts to keep them in place will fail.

Ward recommends moving cliff-top houses away from the edge.

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