10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rep. Joe Baca


The Press-Enterprise

WASHINGTON – Seeking to unburden Inland communities from the development-stifling Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, Inland Rep. Joe Baca is pressing legislation that would amend the federal Endangered Species Act.

Baca’s bill would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct a review of any species after it has been listed as endangered for 15 years. The study must show a substantial increase in the species’ population to warrant its continued listing as endangered, thus preventing communities from being subject to protections for species that are not present.

While it would apply to any species, the legislation is aimed squarely at the Delhi Sands fly. Environmental restrictions in place to protect the fly’s habitat stand in the way of development on 365 acres of land in Colton and Rialto that would otherwise be coveted as prime commercial real estate.

“The fly has been like a monster to us,” said Baca, D-Rialto. “It has hurt us a lot in how many jobs have been lost. Development is stalled and it has hindered business.”

But recent studies, the most recent in 2010, have shown the fly is still present in the area, said Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Jane Herndon. The majority of the fly’s life cycle is spent underground, making population estimates difficult, she said.

The yellowish fly, which hovers like a hummingbird, is unique to dunes created by centuries of Santa Ana winds scooping sand from the mountains and depositing it in the valleys below.

Herndon could not comment on any proposed legislation, but she said the fly is part of Southern California’s rich biodiversity. She said the agency has worked to facilitate development, while still protecting the species.

She pointed to conservation plans negotiated with proponents of 11 development projects in Delhi Sands fly habitat areas, and said the agency is already working with Colton and Rialto officials to create city-wide plans meant to balance development and environmental concerns.

“We’ve never not been able to get a project to go forward,” she said. “We’ve never hit a wall.”

Still, Colton sought Baca’s help in clearing the way for what the city calls a Superblock development of restaurants and stores west of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, north of Interstate 10. Those plans have been stalled by requirements that habitat be set aside for the fly and fees that developers would have to pay to build there.

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