SAN DIEGO (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service improperly refuse to list two rare Californian butterflies as threatened or endangered, the Center for Biological Diversity claims in Federal Court. The environmentalists demand protection for the Hermes copper and Thorne's hairstreak butterflies.
The Center says it required years of litigation to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct the required 90-day review of whether the butterflies needed protection. Then the FWS refused to protect them, in defiance of the conclusions of its own biologists, the plaintiffs say.
Instead of applying the legal standard dictated by the Endangered Species Act, which requires the Service to determine whether "a reasonable person" responding to the evidence would believe that the butterflies may need federal protection, the Service demanded that the Center "provide conclusive proof that the threats to the butterflies will lead to extinction."
Despite the challenges of urbanization, wildfire, habitat destruction, population fragmentation and climate change, the Service concluded that the butterflies are doing fine without protection.
The Thorne's hairstreak butterfly depends on a specific tree, the Tecate cypress, to survive. That tree grows only on Otay Mountain in San Diego County. Biologists estimate that fewer than 100 of Thorne's hairstreak butterflies remain after a wildfire wiped out most of the population in 2003.
Biologists' surveys show that the population of the Hermes copper butterfly has been reduced by more than half since the 1960s.