A federally protected beetle was discovered at a road construction site that has been in the works for at least ten years. District 1 Commissioner Ken Doke said finding the American Burying Beetle is going to delay the project until December or even later.
The 8.3-mile Northeast Fort Gibson Road project in Muskogee County, Oklahoma was undertaken by the Cherokee Nation as part of a tribal transportation improvement program administered by the Federal Highway Administration.
Experts, including the Cherokee Nation transportation director, think they have a plan to work around the bugs.
"The new plan is to carve just the beetle habitat out the estimated 60 acres needed for the entire road project," Doke said. "The hope is that we will get down to needing to mitigate just a few acres, much less than the full 60 acres."
The bug in the plan is that it can cost up to $15,000 per acre of beetle habitat that needs to be addressed. The Beetle Mitigation Credits are sold by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation bankers who use the proceeds for conservation efforts and to put aside protected areas for future species' benefit.
"It's a phenomenal project, and property owners are excited about getting it completed," Doke said. "This road is really narrow right now -- too narrow to stripe -- with very little drainage, some blind corners and an S-curve."
The plan will likely have to be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.