Reporting Alex DeMetrick
CALVERT COUNTY, Md. (WJZ)– A crumbling cliff may not seem like the best place to call home, but it’s perfect for an endangered Maryland beetle.
Unfortunately, on top of that cliff are people’s homes, which are in danger of being lost.
Alex DeMetrick reports an important step is being taken to find room for both.
Erosion is a fact of life on this cliff in Calvert County. And for the Ector family, it is too close for comfort.
“We’re both going, ‘Oh my God, I don’t think we really should be on this deck.’”
But that loose earth is one of the few places the Puritan Tiger Beetle is found.
An endangered insect, it burrows in the soft ground to lay its eggs, and federal law has put that ground off-limits for reinforcing.
WJZ has reported on property owners who are paying the price.
“Yes, endangered species should be protected,” said Tony Vajda of the Chesapeake Ranch Estates. “But there has to be some consideration for property rights, too.
Season after season, year after year, that stand-off continued, until now. The state is spending $2.5 million in federal money to buy part of the cliffs.
“The property owner will get paid essentially to allow their cliffs to erode naturally,” Joe Gill, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, said. “And by allowing the cliffs to erode naturally, the beetle will not be threatened by development and by stabilization.”
Setting aside a protected area for the beetles may open the door for permits to install breakwaters along other stretches to slow erosion. And more federal money is being sought for homes at highest risk.
“To set them back further off the property or to move the property owners entirely,” Gill said.
Which will take time, and some are already cutting it close. In all, 450 acres are being purchased to protect the beetle.
The largest parcel is a Girl Scout camp in Cecil County, where the beetle is also found.