San Diego Butterfly Earns New Chance at Endangered Species Protection

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 318
David Hogan (author of listing petitions), (760) 809-9244

San Diego Butterfly Earns New Chance at Endangered Species Protection

SAN DIEGO - Due to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, today the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that one of Southern
California's rarest butterflies, the Thorne's hairstreak, warrants consideration as an
endangered species. Imperiled by its limited range, the Thorne's
hairstreak butterfly exists in only one small area of Tecate cypress
trees on Otay Mountain in San Diego County.

"Protection of this imperiled butterfly demonstrates
that science must trump politics in wildlife protection," said Jonathan
Evans, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
"Listing under the Endangered Species Act will prompt recovery planning
and efforts to bring this butterfly back from the brink of
extinction."

The remaining populations of the Thorne's hairstreak are
located inside the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Otay Mountain
Wilderness. However, Otay Mountain's native plant and animal
communities have suffered from dozens of wildfires. During the 2003
Mine fire, roughly 68 percent of Thorne's hairstreak habitat was lost.

Conservation groups have sought protection for the
threatened butterfly for almost 20 years. First in 1991 and again in
2004, the San Diego Biodiversity Project and the Center for Biological
Diversity, respectively, filed formal petitions with the federal
government to protect the species.

Today's decision was part of a legal settlement between
the Center for Biological Diversity and the Fish and Wildlife Service
resulting from the Bush administration's interference with agency
science - which led to a previous agency decision not to
consider the Thorne's hairstreak for federal protection. Documents
revealed that political inference had reversed the course of agency
biologists, who had actually recommended
further research
into protection of the butterfly under the
Endangered Species Act.

"Past wildfires in San Diego county show that we could
lose these beautiful creatures in one strong blaze," said David Hogan,
author of both scientific petitions to gain protection for the
butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. "Endangered Species Act
protection provides a crucial safety net to protect these butterflies
for future generations."

The Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting comments on
protection for the Thorne's hairstreak butterfly for 60 days.

Background: The Thorne's hairstreak butterfly

The Thorne's hairstreak is a delicate butterfly with
wings that range from reddish brown to mahogany brown with lavender
overscaling. This butterfly has an extremely limited geographic range,
existing in only one small area on Otay Mountain in San Diego County.
This limited range is due, in part, to the limited distribution of its
host plant, the Tecate cypress, upon which it depends.

The Thorne's hairstreak has been recognized as unique
and imperiled for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, the status of the
Thorne's hairstreak butterfly continues to deteriorate due to the
increased threat of wildfire posed by an increasing human population
and illegal migration across the Mexico border. Because of its limited
distribution, one wildfire event could wipe the species off the planet.
In fact, the 2003 wildfire event reduced the Thorne's hairstreak
occupied locations by half, from 10 to five. Prior to the 2003
wildfires, biologists estimated that about 400 Thorne's hairstreak
butterflies remained in about eight populations. After the fire,
surveys turned up fewer than 100 individual butterflies in four to five
locations.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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