OCTOBER 25, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: David Hogan, 619 574-6800
More Information: Butterfly Website
ONE YEAR AFTER THE FIRES:
LEGAL PROTECTIONS SOUGHT FOR RARE BUTTERFLIES
BUSH ADMINISTRATION DOES NOTHING TO PROTECT TWO SPECIES
San Diego – The Center for Biological Diversity has filed formal, legal documents seeking federal Endangered Species Act protection for two San Diego-area butterflies on the anniversary of harm suffered by the species in the 2003 wildfires.
One species, the Thorne’s hairstreak butterfly is on the brink of extinction. The hairstreak lost 68% of its habitat to the Mine Fire, leaving only 5 small populations on one mountaintop. One single, new fire could cause extinction of the species.
The Hermes copper butterfly is more widespread, ranging from Fallbrook to northern Baja. But only 18 populations remain after the Paradise, Cedar, and Mine fires burned 19 populations and 39% of its habitat.
“The 2003 fires took a tragic toll on human life and property. The fires also devastated wildlife and habitats already under assault from urban development and drought,” said David Hogan, Urban Wildlands Program Coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Scientists and conservationists have recognized the rarity of the two butterflies for years. One observer wrote of the Hermes copper in 1930, “Its trysting places are being rapidly taken over by realtors and the species may soon become extinct …”
Both species are at significant risk of extinction from future fires, and urban development poses a grave threat to Hermes copper populations. Formal protection of Hermes copper should reduce urban development in important habitat, especially in unincorporated County areas near Jamul and Fallbrook.
“Expanded fire suppression efforts may be the only way to save these species from extinction. The good news is that fire suppression should also benefit nearby human residents. Poorly planned development should also be reigned in to protect Hermes copper,” said Hogan.
The Bush administration has done nothing to protect the butterflies despite extensive publicity of major harm from the fires. This is entirely consistent with other administration efforts to undermine the Endangered Species Act. As of August 2004, the Bush administration has protected only 31 plants and animals, the lowest listing rate in the history of the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the administration has the highest rate of delisting – removing plants and animals from the endangered species list. The Bush administration is the only presidency in the history of the ESA to have not listed a single species except in response to petitions and/or lawsuits by scientists and citizen groups.
Newspaper stories featuring fire impacts to both species is available on request: "Fluttering Into Oblivion," Los Angeles Times (March 7, 2004); “California Fires Upset Delicate Ecosystem,” Washington Post (November 15, 2003).
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