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For Immediate Release, May 4, 2010

Contact:  Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
David Hogan (author of listing petitions), (760) 809-9244

San Diego Butterfly Closer to Endangered Species Protection

SAN DIEGO, Calif.— As a result of a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that one of Southern California’s rarest butterflies, the Hermes copper, warrants consideration as an endangered species.

“Sprawl, wildfires, and climate change are a triple threat for this beautiful butterfly,” said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Listing under the Endangered Species Act will prompt recovery planning and efforts to bring this butterfly back from the brink of extinction.”

Conservation groups have sought protection for the threatened butterfly for almost 20 years. First in 1991 and again in 2004, the San Diego Biodiversity Project and the Center for Biological Diversity, respectively, filed formal petitions with the federal government to protect the species.

“The decline of the Hermes copper follows the destruction of native Southern California,” said David Hogan, author of both scientific petitions to gain protection for the butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. “Endangered Species Act protection has been delayed for two decades and is crucial save these butterflies for future generations.”

Today’s decision represents a change of heart for the Fish and Wildlife Service, which had previously chosen not to consider federal protection for the imperiled butterfly. But as asserted by the Center in court documents, the earlier decision was politically motivated and not based on science. Documents obtained by the Center revealed that the Bush administration had overruled agency biologists, who had actually recommended further research into Endangered Species Act protection of the Hermes copper and Thorne’s hairstreak, another imperiled butterfly recently considered for protection

The Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting comments on protection for the Hermes copper butterfly for 60 days. A final decision on whether to protect the Hermes copper and Thorne’s hairstreak butterflies under the Endangered Species Act is due in the spring of 2011.

Background: The Hermes Copper Butterfly

The Hermes copper is a bright, yellow-orange spotted butterfly that is dependent for survival on small areas of its host plant, the spiny redberry. The Hermes copper occupied many coastal areas prior to urbanization, and still occupies some foothill and mountain areas up to 45 miles from the ocean.

As early as 1980, staff at the San Diego Natural History Museum noted “with San Diego’s increasing growth and the distributional nature of this little endemic butterfly, its future may well rest in the hands of developers.” Files of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized the substantial threat from wildfire: “Carlsbad FWS office files contain substantial information regarding threat of wildfire due to increased human-induced fire” due, in part, to the 2003 fire that “burned 39% of Hermes copper habitat” including “large stands of the species’ larval host plant and entire colonies.” 

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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