Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 9, 2023


Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Habitat Protections Proposed for Endangered New Mexico Butterfly

Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Imperiled by Grazing, Logging, Development

CLOUDCROFT, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed designating nine areas in New Mexico, totaling 1,637 acres, as critical habitat for the endangered Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly.

Very few of these strikingly patterned orange and dark brown butterflies have been seen in recent years. In 2021, just 23 butterflies were found in two high-elevation meadows in their namesake southern New Mexico mountain range. Most of their habitat has been degraded by grazing, development and motorized recreation.

The Service refused to protect the butterfly under the Endangered Species Act after the Center petitioned for it to be listed in 1999 and 2007, allowing its numbers to decline to such a low level. The butterflies were finally protected in 2023, following a third petition.

“These beautiful and irreplaceable butterflies are barely clinging to existence because of bad decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Michael Robinson, senior conservation advocate at the Center. “I’m so glad they’re finally getting protection for their habitat. I hope it’s not too late.”

The proposed critical habitat comprises 1,094 acres in the Lincoln National Forest, 521 acres of private land and 22 acres owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe. The Endangered Species Act prohibits federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service from harming or destroying critical habitat.

Peer-reviewed research shows that species with protected critical habitat are almost twice as likely to be moving toward recovery than species without it.

Scientists estimate that worldwide at least 10% of insects are vulnerable to extinction. Butterflies are one of the most at-risk groups, with nearly 20% of U.S. species facing extinction.

“The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly and other local wildlife found nowhere else are part of what make the Land of Enchantment enchanting,” said Robinson.

Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti), found only in sunny meadows within the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico. Photo credit: USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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