Rare Rocky Mountain Insects will Need Snowfields to Survive

The two species live in and around Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta

By Associated Press
Meltwater Lednian Stonefly larva. Courtesy USGS

HELENA – Federal wildlife officials say two species of winged insects in the Rocky Mountains will need several thousand acres of glaciers and snowfields if they are to survive a warming world that’s threatening them with extinction.

The western glacier stonefly and the meltwater lednian stonefly live in streams that flow from melting glaciers and snowfields. Scientists say the insects are not doing well and face continued declines, including losing 80 percent of their habitat in Glacier National Park by 2030.

The stoneflies’ peril underscores the threat climate change poses to mountaintops worldwide that are “biodiversity hotspots” — home to a rich variety of plants, animals and insects that scientists are still learning about.

The two species live in and around Glacier National Park in Montana, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada and Native American tribal lands in western Montana. More recently, they’ve been found in streams in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana and Wyoming.

They are mostly found in steep, remote areas that are hard to reach and away from backcountry trails.

A new draft recovery plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggests the possible transplant of some of the insects to new areas, exploring ways to artificially propagate populations and research into their heat tolerance.

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