For Immediate Release,
April 30, 2020
LAS VEGAS— In response to legal action initiated by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will re-examine the effects of the proposed expansion of the Lee Canyon Ski Area on critically endangered Mount Charleston blue butterflies.
Owners of the Lee Canyon Ski Area outside of Las Vegas have proposed a dramatic expansion, including the opening of summer operations for the first time. The resort also seeks to build over a dozen miles of mountain bike trails crisscrossing federally protected critical habitat for the rare butterfly.
In late 2019 the Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that the proposed development wouldn’t jeopardize the butterfly’s continued existence or adversely modify its critical habitat.
In April the Center notified the Service of its intent to sue over the decision, citing significant shortcomings in the agency’s analysis. As a result, the Service will now re-examine the analysis and those conclusions.
“We’re elated that the Mount Charleston blue butterfly will live to fly another day while the Fish and Wildlife Service hopefully takes an honest look at the real impact of this proposed expansion,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This beautiful little butterfly is one of the most endangered insects in North America and we won’t stand by while its some of its last habitat is under threat.”
The Mount Charleston blue butterfly was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2013, the same year it experienced a catastrophic loss of its already limited habitat in the Carpenter 1 fire.
In 2015 the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 5,214 acres of protected critical habitat in the Spring Mountains, including almost all of the Lee Canyon Ski Area, which harbors the most important remaining population. Scientists have found fewer than 100 butterflies during surveys over the past four years.
“Lee Canyon Ski Area wants to turn the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s critical habitat into an extreme downhill sports amusement park,” said Donnelly. “We’re fighting back to protect every inch of this butterfly’s critical habitat. Extinction hangs in the balance.”