San Diego Butterfly Closer to Endangered Species Protection

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
David Hogan (author of listing petitions), (760) 809-9244

San Diego Butterfly Closer to Endangered Species Protection

SAN DIEGO, CA - As a result of a legal settlement with the Center for Biological
Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that one
of Southern California’s rarest butterflies, the Hermes copper, warrants consideration as an
endangered species.

“Sprawl, wildfires, and climate change are a triple
threat for this beautiful butterfly,” said Jonathan Evans of 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.”

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.

“The decline of the Hermes copper follows the
destruction of native Southern California,” said David Hogan, author of
both scientific petitions to gain protection for the butterfly under
the Endangered Species Act. “Endangered Species Act protection has been
delayed for two decades and is crucial save these butterflies for
future generations.”

Today’s decision represents a change of heart for the
Fish and Wildlife Service, which had previously chosen not to
consider federal protection for the imperiled butterfly. But as
asserted by the Center in court documents, the earlier decision was
politically motivated and not based on science. Documents obtained by
the Center revealed that the Bush administration had overruled agency
biologists, who had actually recommended
further research
into Endangered Species Act protection of the
Hermes copper and Thorne’s hairstreak, another imperiled butterfly recently considered for protection

The Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting comments on
protection for the Hermes copper butterfly for 60 days. A final
decision on whether to protect the Hermes copper and Throne’s
hairstreak butterflies under the Endangered Species Act is due in the
spring of 2011.

Background: The Hermes Copper Butterfly

The Hermes copper is a bright, yellow-orange spotted
butterfly that is dependent for survival on small areas of its host
plant, the spiny redberry. The Hermes copper occupied many coastal
areas prior to urbanization, and still occupies some foothill and
mountain areas up to 45 miles from the ocean.

As early as 1980, staff at the San Diego Natural History
Museum noted “with San Diego’s increasing growth and the
distributional nature of this little endemic butterfly, its future may
well rest in the hands of developers.” Files
of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized the substantial threat
from wildfire: “Carlsbad FWS office files contain substantial
information regarding threat of wildfire due to increased human-induced
fire” due, in part, to the 2003 fire that “burned 39% of Hermes copper
habitat” including “large stands of the species’ larval host plant and
entire colonies.” 

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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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