A year-round resident of New Mexico’s high mountain meadows, the highly imperiled Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly relies wholly on the integrity of its remarkably limited range. Unfortunately, the New Mexico Wildlife Conservation Act doesn’t recognize insects as wildlife, so this butterfly is afforded no protections under state laws. With the butterfly facing a number of impending threats, the Center filed a citizen petition to list the species under the Endangered Species Act in 1999.
Despite an initial finding that endangered status may be warranted, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took no action on our petition. In response to a follow-up lawsuit we filed, the Service proposed to guarantee the butterfly and its critical habitat full protection. Yet this proposal was later withdrawn.
Nearly a decade after the initial petition, and with the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly still lacking federal protection, we again petitioned the Service to take this species under its wing and finally protect it under the Endangered Species Act. The petition also requested emergency protection from pesticide spraying planned for a majority of the butterfly’s private-lands habitat. The spraying was delayed but not stopped, and our listing request was denied. Again, we filed suit against the Service for its negligence in failing to protect the species, and in April 2008, we reached a settlement with the agency requiring it to make a finding on our petition by late November 2008.
Meanwhile, we have successfully appealed a proposal to sell important checkerspot butterfly habitat in the Lincoln National Forest to the town of Cloudcroft for development.
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1998 federal listing petition
Contact: Noah Greenwald