WASHINGTON (CN) – The Miami blue butterfly is threatened with imminent extinction and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an emergency rule listing the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The agency only uses the emergency listing provision of the act when it believes that a species is likely to go extinct within the two to three years it normally takes for the agency to list a species.
The agency believes there may only be a few hundred Miami blues in the wild and because they are limited to a few islands in the Florida Keys it fears that a catastrophic natural event like a hurricane could wipe out the entire population.
Under the emergency rule, the Miami blue is protected under the act for 240 days. At the same time it issued the emergency rule the agency issued a proposed rule to permanently list the species as endangered.
No critical habitat has been proposed because, according to the agency, “publishing maps and descriptions of critical habitat areas would widely announce the exact location of the butterfly to poachers, collectors, and vandals and may further facilitate disturbance and destruction of the butterfly’s habitat.”
The agency is also listing as threatened on an emergency basis three other species that closely resemble the Miami blue, fearing that collectors in search of the cassius blue butterfly, ceraunus blue butterfly, and nickerbean blue butterfly, might accidentally capture the Miami blue.
The agency also issued a special rule banning collection and commercial trade of the three look-alike species within the United States. The special rule also prohibits the import into, and export from, the U.S. of the three similar butterflies.
The Miami blue butterfly is endangered by the destruction and modification of its habitat by exotic green iguanas, which eat the butterfly’s host plants, accidental harm from humans, loss of genetic diversity, and catastrophic environmental events, such as hurricanes.