For Immediate Release, January 11, 2011
Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681
Emergency Protection Sought for Disappearing Miami Blue Butterfly
MIAMI— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a petition seeking emergency protection for the Miami blue butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. This rare butterfly, whose adults only live for nine days, has only been found in South Florida. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first designated the butterfly a candidate for federal protection in 1984, but to date has failed to give it any protection. The species was believed extinct after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, but in 1999 an amateur lepidopterist discovered a population in Bahia Honda State Park. In 2010 this population was found to have disappeared, and the species is reduced to scattered individuals in another population now known in the Marquesas Keys in Key West National Wildlife Refuge.
“Twenty-seven years of bureaucratic delay have allowed the Miami blue butterfly to decline to the very brink of extinction. The Fish and Wildlife Service must now take emergency measures for this beautiful butterfly to have any chance of survival,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center.
Once widespread in coastal South Florida, the butterfly has severely declined in the face of urban sprawl, fire suppression, pesticides used in mosquito control, loss of host plants due to iguana herbivory, severe weather events and rising sea levels due to climate change. The Miami blue is brightly colored and about one inch long.
“The Miami blue butterfly is in dire need of protection,” said Curry. “And the Obama administration has to date shown no sense of urgency about saving the Miami blue butterfly or hundreds of other species waiting for protection.”
The Miami blue is one of 254 candidate species that have been waiting an average of 20 years for protection and are, like the butterfly, in desperate need of help. To date, President Obama’s Fish and Wildlife Service has protected a mere 54 species — an average of 27 species per year. By comparison, the agency protected 498 species under the Clinton administration, for a rate of 62 species per year.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.