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Center for Biological Diversity:
Historic Victory for 757 Species

Nature World News, October 24, 2014

Pair of Prairie Butterflies Gain ESA Protection
By Jenna Iacurci

A pair of prairie butterflies from Minnesota have just gained protection under the Endangered Species Act, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Thursday.

Both the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling benefitted from a 2011 settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions for 757 imperiled plants and animals across the country.

The inch-long, brown-and-orange butterflies, once found in eight states in the Midwest and Great Lakes region, are highly endangered due to loss of native prairie habitat.

"It's great news that these remarkable little butterflies now have the Endangered Species Act protection that will save them and their beautiful prairie homes," Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center, said in a press release.

The Dakota skipper is a small butterfly with hooked antennae and uniquely thick, muscular body that allows it to fly faster and stronger than other butterflies. It once fluttered in tall grass and mixed grass prairies of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and parts of Canada, but at least here in the United States, the species is found only at 35 percent of its historically known sites.

And like the skipper, thanks to agriculture, development and groundwater depletion, the smaller and slender Poweshiek skipperling has also lost its prairie habitat. It has been lost from the states of Illinois and Indiana, and was last seen in Minnesota in 2007, surviving at only five percent of historically known sites.

Last year, the FWS proposed protecting about 39,000 acres of habitat for these endangered butterflies, including parts of Michigan, Minnesota and the Dakotas. These plans are supposed to be finalized soon.

"Protecting the last high-quality prairie habitats for the butterflies will keep these special places safe, along with all the other plants and animals that need them to survive," added Curry.

© Copyright 2014 Nature World News. 

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton