Bay Skipper Butterfly|Will Be Fine, Says Agency

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A recently discovered butterfly that lives in the tidal marshes of the Gulf Coast should not be listed as an endangered species, Fish and Wildlife officials said.
     The Bay skipper, discovered in 1989, is named after Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, where a lepidopterist first found it.
     Until recently, the only other place the butterfly had been seen was in the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
     The Bay skipper was listed as a candidate for potential protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1991.
     Nearly a decade later, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and WildEarth Guardians requested the butterfly be listed as an endangered or threatened species.
     The groups’ December 2009 petition also asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate certain parts of the Bay skipper’s habitat as critical to the butterfly’s survival.
     Hurricane Katrina badly damaged Bay Saint Louis in 2005, and environmentalists feared the Bay skipper could not recover from the storm.
      A week-long Fish and Wildlife survey of the butterfly found it in five places in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, and two places in Texas. While no Bay skippers were found in Bay Saint Louis or the Texas wildlife refuge where they were first seen, the population is more widely distributed than initially believed.
     The USFWS noted that although marsh erosion along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana has likely had an effect on the Bay skipper’s habitat, “since 2005, over 200 restoration and protection projects have been constructed, are in progress, or are proposed projects that protect, enhance, or restore estuarine herbaceous marshes include water and sediment diversions, marsh nourishment, marsh creation, shoreline protection, and hydrologic restoration.”.
     Based on its analysis of the best available data, the USFWS decided that the Bay skipper will be able to adapt to environmental changes.
     “We find no evidence that the Bay skipper and the maritime plant communities upon which it depends will be unable to shift their distributions to accommodate current rates of sea level rise,” the USFWS wrote.
     “Their flight capability, and the production of two generations per year of the Bay skipper, should enable the species to rapidly colonize areas impacted by severe storm events, as well as adjust to maritime habitat shifts that may occur from sea level rise. We also find little evidence that land management actions are now having, or have in the past, had a wide negative effect on the species. Additionally, the magnitude of all of these potential threats to the species has also been reduced by the discovery and recognition of the Bay skipper’s wider distribution, and ongoing efforts to protect and enhance estuarine marsh habitats.”

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