For Immediate Release, April 5, 2012
Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681
Endangered Species Act Protection Finalized for Miami Blue Butterfly
MIAMI— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule today protecting the Miami blue butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The tiny, bright-colored butterfly once occurred across coastal South Florida but has disappeared from 99 percent of its range and is now facing extinction. Today’s rule finalizes protections for the rare Florida butterfly and is in accordance with a landmark settlement agreement reached between the Center for Biological Diversity and the Fish and Wildlife Service speeding up protection decisions for 757 species.
“The Miami blue butterfly is on the very brink of extinction, and this finalized protection gives it a real shot at survival and recovery,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act is 99 percent effective at preventing the extinction of the species it covers, so we do have a hope, under the safety net of the Act, of stopping the loss of this beautiful butterfly.”
The world’s total surviving population of Miami blues is estimated by the Service at only a few hundred individuals. During surveys in 2010, fewer than 50 adults were observed; 2011 surveys yielded similar numbers. The Service is funding a study to search remote areas for additional populations, but none have been detected to date. Attempts to reintroduce the butterfly have been unsuccessful.
The Miami blue, whose adults live for just a few days, 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 in the Marquesas Keys in Key West National Wildlife Refuge. 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 about one inch long, and females are drab compared to males.
The Miami blue was first made a candidate for protection in 1984; the North American Butterfly Association sought emergency protection for the butterfly in 1999; then the Center filed a notice of intent to sue the Service in 2005 for failing to protect the butterfly followed by another petition seeking emergency protection for the Miami blue in January 2011. In August 2011 the Service enacted emergency protections for the butterfly.
The Service today also finalized Endangered Species Act protection for the cassius blue, ceraunus blue and nickerbean blue butterflies, three species found in the same habitat as the Miami blue, because of their similarity in appearance to the Miami blue.