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For Immediate Release, March 7, 2011

Contact:  Rob Mrowka, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 249-5821
Dr. Travis Longcore, The Urban Wildlands Group, (310) 247-9719

Obama Administration Denies Protection to Nevada Butterfly

LAS VEGAS— The Obama administration denied Endangered Species Act protection today to the Mount Charleston blue, a rare Las Vegas butterfly that government scientists have said needs federal protection to avoid extinction.

Using a tactic that has become commonplace on President Barack Obama’s watch, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the butterfly warrants federal protection but won’t get it. Instead, the butterfly was added to a growing list of “candidate” species, where it will wait indefinitely for the protection it needs to survive. To date, Obama’s Interior Department has used the “warranted-but-precluded” designation for 22 species — more than any other administration. Today, 258 species are on the candidate list, where, on average, they wait 20 years before they get protection. At least 24 species have gone extinct while waiting.

“The Mount Charleston blue desperately needs Endangered Species Act protection to survive, so today’s decision could doom this Las Vegas butterfly to extinction,” said Rob Mrowka, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is working to save hundreds of species relegated to the candidate list. 

Today’s finding that the butterfly requires protection, but will not receive it, responds to a 2010 lawsuit by the Center over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to respond to a 2005 petition by Urban Wildlands Group, Inc., to protect the species. The Service took two years to issue a 90-day finding on the 2005 petition, and only issued a 12-month finding after the Center’s lawsuit.

The Mount Charleston blue butterfly, known only from high elevations of the Spring Mountains, about 25 miles west of Las Vegas, has declined drastically since 1995: In recent counts only 17 butterflies were found. The one-inch long butterfly, with brightly colored blue males and brown females, is threatened by habitat loss, fire suppression, drought and other factors.

“This species meets the definition of an endangered species, with only two localities known to be occupied since 2008 and a range of systematic threats to its ongoing persistence,” said Travis Longcore, science director of the Urban Wildlands Group.

“The Obama government has no sense of urgency when it comes to protecting our nation’s most imperiled species,” said Mrowka. “The Endangered Species Act can save our plants and animals, but only if they’re granted real protection.”

To date the Obama government has only given Endangered Species Act protection to 58 species, for a rate of 29 species per year. In contrast, President Clinton protected 522 species under the Endangered Species Act for a rate of 65 species per year, while the first Bush administration protected 232 species for a rate of 58 per year.

The Center and other groups have an active lawsuit in Washington, D.C., showing that continued delays in protecting candidate species are illegal because the Fish and Wildlife Service is not making expeditious progress listing species as required by the Endangered Species Act.

Learn more about our campaign to earn protection for all the candidate species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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