The de-monstering of tamarisk

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service this week ceased release and transport of the Chinese or salt cedar leaf beetle because of potential impact on habitat of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Since 1999, the beetles have been introduced along riverbanks in more than a dozen western states  to check the spread of tamarisk trees, also known as salt cedars, introduced plants that are thought to displace natives and take too much water. However, incursion by the beetles into Arizonan flycatcher territory last year prompted a lawsuit. At issue: the endangered bird nested in the acclimated tree, which in turn was increasingly being eaten by an introduced beetle.

The decision to halt release of the beetle (Diorhabda elongata) comes on the heels of a series of reports finding that the threats posed by tamarisk to the water supply have been overblown while the plant’s