Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.


Contact: David Hogan, Center for Biological Diversity, (619) 574-6800

Bush Administration Denies Protection for
Imperiled San Diego Butterflies

Decision Reflects Administration’s Gross Anti-Conservation Bias

SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that is rejecting conservationists’ request to protect two imperiled butterflies from San Diego County under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The decision comes in response to a detailed scientific request, or “petition,” that the butterflies be added to the federal list of endangered species, which the Center for Biological Diversity submitted in October 2003. The petition was filed on the third anniversary of wildfires that caused serious harm to the two species. Today’s decision follows the Center’s 2005 lawsuit over the agency’s failure to respond to the request.

One butterfly, the Thorne’s hairstreak, is on the brink of extinction. The hairstreak lost 68 percent of its habitat in the 2003 Otay Fire (also known as Mine Fire), leaving only five tiny populations on a single mountaintop. A new fire could cause extinction of the species.

The Hermes copper butterfly has a wider range, from Fallbrook to northern Baja. But only 19 populations remain after the Paradise, Cedar and Otay fires together burned another 19 populations and 39 percent of the species’ habitat.

“The 2003 fires took a tragic toll on human life and property,” said David Hogan, Urban Wildlands Program Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The fires also devastated wildlife and habitats already suffering an assault from urban development and drought.”

Scientists and conservationists have recognized the rarity of the two butterflies for years. In 1930, one observer wrote of the Hermes copper, “Its trysting places are being rapidly taken over by realtors and the species may soon become extinct …” David Hogan of the Center submitted earlier petitions to list the species in 1991, but these were denied on a technicality for lacking information the Fish and Wildlife Service admitted it already possessed. The Service then promised to conduct its own status reviews but has since acknowledged this was never accomplished.

Both species are at significant risk of extinction from future fires, and urban development poses a grave threat to Hermes copper populations. At least six fires appear to have burned near the last Thorne’s hairstreak populations in the 2005 fire season alone. Formal protection of Hermes copper should reduce urban development in important habitat, especially in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County near Escondido, Jamul and Fallbrook.

“Expanded fire suppression may be the only way to save these species from extinction,” said Hogan. “The good news is that fire suppression should also benefit nearby human residents. Sprawling development should also be reigned in to protect Hermes copper.”

“Following the 2003 fires, the Bush administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service did nothing to protect the butterflies despite extensive reports of the species’ perilous status. Now the administration has resorted to lies and misinformation to deny the best available science that shows these butterflies are in real trouble,” Hogan continued.

Today’s decision is consistent with other administration efforts to undermine wildlife conservation and the Endangered Species Act. As of July 2006, the Bush administration has protected only 56 plants and animals, the lowest listing rate in the history of the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the administration has the highest rate of delisting – removing plants and animals from the endangered species list. The Bush administration is the only presidency in the history of the Endangered Species Act to have not listed a single species except in response to petitions and/or lawsuits by scientists and citizen groups and court orders.

Please visit the Center’s website for copies of the listing petitions, lawsuit, newspaper stories featuring the butterflies and more:

The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit conservation organization with more than 25,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and habitat.


more press releases. . .

Go back