WASHINGTON (CN) - The Hermes copper butterfly has been added to the long list of species the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service believes should be protected under the Endangered Species Act but for which it says such protection is "precluded" by higher listing priorities and budget restrictions.
Only 15 populations of the Hermes' have been documented from northern San Diego south to Baja Mexico. The species suffered steep population decline in 2003 when wildfires destroyed about 35 percent of its known habitat.
The agency had listed the species for potential protection in the early 1980s, but changes in the listing process resulted in the Hermes falling off the list. In 2004, the agency did not comment on a listing petition filed by the environmental group the Center for Biological Diversity, and in 2005, the group began a lawsuit that ended in 2006 without any listing action.
In 2009, the group took the agency back to court, and as part of a settlement agreement, the agency agreed to reconsider listing the Hermes copper butterfly as either threatened or endangered.
The main threat to the species always has been San Diego's population sprawl, which already was encroaching on Hermes habitat in the late 1920s.
There currently are more than 260 species of plants and animals on the Candidate Species List. Each year, the agency reviews the species on the candidate list to determine whether any warrant immediate listing under the Endangered Species Act, or if higher priority listings continue to preclude listing of a particular species.
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