In keeping with an agreement brokered by the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Native Plant Society, and the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project to expedite the protection of 29 imperiled species from the Pacific Islands to Florida, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed four species under the Endangered Species Act in recent months, and issued an initial positive finding on a fifth:

Carson wandering skipper: CA, NV
Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit: WA
Mississippi gopher frog: AL, LA, MS
Tumbling Creek cavesnail: MO
Miami blue butterfly: FL

While the Clinton administration protected 63 species under the Endangered Species Act in its first year in office, the Bush administration has listed just 12. Eleven of those were listed due to lawsuits and negotiations by the Center for Biological Diversity.

For more information on the 29 species agreement, click here...

For more information on the five species just protected, see below:

Carson Wandering Skipper Butterfly: CA, NV

On 11-29-01, the Carson wandering skipper butterfly was listed as an endangered species on an emergency basis. The beautiful butterfly is found only in Washoe County, NV where five individuals were located in 2001, and in adjacent Lassen County, CA, where just "a few" individuals were seen. The skipper is susceptible to immediate extinction due to cattle grazing, wetland degradation, water pumping, urban sprawl, and invasive non-native plants.

A petition to list the skipper as an endangered species was filed by the Xerces Society on 11-10-00, but the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refused to accept the petition because of an illegal policy banning citizen petitions for species already on the Service's "candidate" list. The skipper has been on the candidate list since 1984 without being protected. That policy has since been struck down by a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Carson wandering skippers lay their eggs on saltgrass, a native western plant which occurs in wet areas. They collect nectar from mustard plants, golden-weed, and slender bird's-foot trefoil. Skippers are distinguished from other butterflies because of their powerful flight.

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit: WA

On 11-30-01, the Columbia basin pygmy rabbit was listed as an endangered species on an emergency basis because it has declined to just 50 animals in the wild and one small captive population.

Weighing just a single pound, the pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America and the only one in the United States to dig its own burrow. It has lived in tall, dense sagebrush and bunch-grass areas in the Columbia Basin of OR and WA for at least 100,000 years. It has been pushed to the edge of extinction by urban sprawl, agricultural conversion, livestock grazing, increased fire frequencies, and invasion of exotic plants. Sixty percent of Washington's shrub steppe habitat has been converted to human use, most of the rest is subject to livestock grazing. Shrub steppe is Washington's least protected habitat type.

Mississippi Gopher Frog: LA, MS, AL

On 12-4-01, the Mississippi gopher frog was listed as an endangered species. The gopher frog, which has been a candidate for federal protection since 1983, has declined to just 100 frogs breeding in a single four acre pond on the DeSoto National Forest, MS. A 20,000 unit housing development is planned 200 feet from this pond.

Mississippi gopher frogs spend most of their lives underground within burrows created by gopher tortoises and other animals. In the winter, they migrate to temporary ponds to breed. After breeding, they migrate back to the forested uplands. They are threatened by fire suppression, drought, pesticides, urban sprawl, highway construction, conversion of native longleaf pine forests to industrial pine plantations, and the decline of gopher tortoises. Ninety eight percent of America's native longleaf pine forest has already been destroyed.

Tumbling Creek Cavesnail: MO

On 12-27-01, the Tumbling Creek cavesnail was listed as an endangered species on an emergency basis because it has declined from a population of 15,000 to just 40. It lives only in Tumbling Creek Cave, a unique underground ecosystem in Missouri with at least seven other endemic species. The cave is home to one of the few remaining maternity colonies of the endangered gray bat and up to the late 1980s also supported a population of endangered Indiana bats.

The cavesnail is spiraling toward extinction due to deteriorating water quality caused by overgrazing and pollution from livestock feedlots. Its decline may also be associated with the decline of the Indiana and gray bats as it likely feeds on insects living on bat guano. The Indiana bat is now extirpated from Tumbling Creek Cave and the gray bat population has declined from 50,000 to about 12,000.

Miami Blue Butterfly: FL

On 1-3-02, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued an initial positive decision to list the Miami blue butterfly as an endangered species. Once occurring widely along the Florida coasts as far north as St. Petersburg and Daytona, the Miami blue has dwindled to a few highly scattered populations. It is threatened by urban sprawl, fire suppression, and pesticides.

The Miami blue butterfly is the only subspecies of Hemiargus thomasi in the United States. Its larvae mature in the stem and seed pods of specific host plants. Being dependant upon interactions with ants, the larvae leave their entrance holes open for ants to enter. This makes them more susceptible to pesticide poisoning than non-symbiotic butterflies which close over their entrance holes.

Though the North American Butterfly Association filed a petition to list the Miami blue butterfly as an endangered species in June, 2000, no action was taken on the petition until the nationwide 29 species agreement.

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