From The Aspen Times (Mead Gruver):
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service last week formally ended its program of releasing saltcedar leaf beetles to eat saltcedar, also known as tamarisk, in 13 states: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming.
The reason for the program’s demise is the southwestern willow flycatcher, an endangered species found in scattered pockets around the Southwest. The bird nests in saltcedar, as well as in native willows and cottonwoods.
Concern that beetles could destroy much of the bird’s nesting habitat was why the USDA excluded New Mexico, Arizona and California from the beetle-release program, which began in 2005.
Now, scientists think the beetles are likely to spread from the states where they were introduced. They say it could be just a matter of time before the insects chew through saltcedar all the way down the Colorado River drainage in Arizona and eastern California.