WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is slashing the designated critical habitat of the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly by almost two-thirds, from 171,000 acres to just 62,125 acres in Riverside and San Diego counties, concluding that the designation will not alter the butterfly’s fate.
In 1997, when the Quino was listed as endangered, the Center for Biological Diversity argued that 300,000 acres were needed to secure existing checkerspot populations but only 171,000 acres were designated.
The Service says it is basing the reduction on revised observations of so-called low-density populations of the Quino which the Service now believes are residual, declining populations that designation would not help, and the exclusion of land already covered by a Quino conservation plan with landowners.
The Quino checkerspot was once one of the most commonly seen butterflies in southern California, but as the shrubland and hilltops where the Quino lays its eggs and reproduces have been either destroyed by fire or by development of suburban housing, the population has rapidly declined.