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For Immediate Release, June 28, 2007


Nicole J. Rosmarino, Forest Guardians, (505) 988-9126 x 156
Michael J. Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (505) 534-0360

Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly at Risk From Spraying:
Groups Request Emergency Protection

SANTA FE, N.M.— Forest Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity today requested that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant emergency federal protection to the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. Ongoing insecticide spraying in the village of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, and proposed spraying on adjacent Lincoln National Forest land prompted the request. The butterfly occurs on less than 2,000 acres, centered around Cloudcroft. Insecticides being sprayed target budworms and looper caterpillars, but they can also kill checkerspots.

“Current insect control in Cloudcroft poses an acute risk to the imperiled checkerspot butterfly,” said Nicole Rosmarino of Forest Guardians. “Emergency protection for this rare butterfly is needed to keep it from vanishing forever.”

The Center for Biological Diversity formally petitioned the Service to protect the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly under the Endangered Species Act in January 1999. As a result of the petition and subsequent legal action, the butterfly was on track for federal protection in September 2001, when the Service issued a proposed rule to list the checkerspot as endangered and proposed to designate all of its habitat as critical habitat. The Service withdrew the listing proposal in December 2004 claiming that threats to the butterfly had been reduced, despite the very limited range of the species, which makes it susceptible to extinction, and the presence of broad or long-term threats such as fire suppression, nonnative weeds, and climate change.

The groups filing the butterfly petition pointed out today that if the listing had been finalized, the butterfly would not face the current emergency.

“The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is a unique and irreplaceable icon of the Sacramento Mountains,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration’s denial of protection for this little critter in its tiny home range must be reversed before it’s too late.”

Additional evidence presented in today’s petition concerns impacts to the checkerspot from climate change. The butterfly is particularly at risk from extreme weather and other climate-change effects because of its extremely limited range and its close relationship with a narrowly distributed plant, the New Mexico penstemon. This penstemon is the butterfly’s primary host plant and the only plant known to provide butterfly egg-laying sites. The plant is restricted to the Sacramento Mountains. Just a slight shift in the plant’s distribution, productivity, or other factors could further imperil the checkerspot. Across the globe, butterflies have been recognized to be at particularly high risk from climate change.

The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is found only in areas within six miles of the village of Cloudcroft, and the village appears in the checkerspot’s scientific name: Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti.


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