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For Immediate Release, April 13, 2011

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Disappearing Miami Blue Butterfly

MIAMI The Center for Biological Diversity took the first step in a lawsuit to protect the Miami blue butterfly today, filing a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the notice, the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to provide emergency Endangered Species Act protection to the butterfly despite the fact that the species is on the brink of extinction and has suffered recent declines. 

“Twenty-seven years of bureaucratic delay have allowed the Miami blue butterfly to decline to the very brink of extinction,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center. “We are filing suit because the Fish and Wildlife Service must now take emergency measures for this beautiful butterfly to have any chance of survival.”

The Center filed a petition for emergency protection on Jan. 11, but has not received any response. The rare butterfly is only found in South Florida, and adults only live for nine days; it has been waiting for federal protection since it was first made a candidate in 1984. Candidates are species the agency recognizes need Endangered Species Act protection to avoid extinction, but which, instead of being protected, are placed on a list where they spend an average of 20 years waiting for protection.

The Miami blue 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; the species survives only as scattered individuals in another population now known in the Marquesas Keys in Key West National Wildlife Refuge. Once widespread in coastal South Florida, the butterfly has declined severely due to urban sprawl, fire suppression, mosquito-control pesticides, loss of host plants due to iguana herbivory, severe weather events and rising sea levels from climate change. The Miami blue is brightly colored and about one inch long.

“The Miami blue butterfly is in urgent need of protection,” said Curry. “And the Obama administration has shown no sense of urgency about saving the Miami blue butterfly or any of the hundreds of other species waiting for protection.”

The Miami blue is one of 260 candidate species that, like the butterfly, are in dire need of federal protection. While waiting on the candidate list, 24 species have gone extinct. To date, President Obama’s Fish and Wildlife Service has protected a mere 55 species under the Endangered Species Act. By comparison, the Clinton administration protected 498 species, and the first Bush administration protected 232 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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