Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 29, 2015

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681 or

Las Vegas Butterfly Gains 5,214 Acres of Protected Critical Habitat Under Endangered Species Act

LAS VEGAS— Following an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected 5,214 acres of critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in Clark County, Nev. Fewer than 100 of the tiny butterflies are known to survive. The Mount Charleston blue is found nowhere on Earth except for the Spring Mountains outside Las Vegas.

Mount Charlston blue
Mount Charleston blue butterfly photo by Corey Kallstrom, USFWS. Photos are available for media use.

“The Mount Charleston blue is one of the most endangered butterflies in the world, so it’s wonderful news that this beautiful little guy finally has protected critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “We can't save this unique Las Vegas butterfly without protecting the places it lives in the Spring Mountains, and designating critical habitat is a great way to do that.”

Mount Charleston blue butterflies are threatened by fire-suppression activities and recreational development. Conservationists first petitioned for the butterfly’s protection in 2005, and it was listed as endangered in 2013 following a 2011 legal agreement with the Center that required the Fish and Wildlife Service to make protection decisions for 757 species over six years.

The butterfly is found only on upper elevations of Mount Charleston, about 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas in the U.S. Forest Service-managed Spring Mountain National Recreation Area. The butterfly’s habitat — open forests with little understory vegetation and exposed mineral soil — has been threatened by efforts to suppress natural fires, a tactic that has led to overgrown forests. The butterfly’s habitat has been further degraded in recent years by Forest Service fuel-reduction projects, in which small trees and brush were chipped and spread on the ground, covering the butterfly’s host plants.

The designation of critical habitat will require the Forest Service to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that management activities do not harm the butterfly’s habitat. A study by the Center found that species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to be improving as those without.

The Mount Charleston blue was first identified as a distinctive subspecies of the wider-ranging Shasta blue butterfly in 1928. The butterfly is less than an inch long; males are iridescent blue and gray, while the females are a more subdued brown-gray.

“Saving the Mount Charleston blue butterfly will preserve an essential piece of the natural world that makes life on Earth more beautiful and interesting for all of us,” said Curry. 

So far under the Center’s landmark 2011 settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service, 142 species have gained Endangered Species Act protection while another 10 have been proposed for protection.  

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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