US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to protect 5,561 acres that host protected-status Mount Charleston blue butterfly in Nevada's Clark County; Center for Biological Diversity says habitat threatened by fire-suppression, recreational development

LAS VEGAS , July 14, 2014 (press release) – Following an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed decisions for protection of 757 imperiled species across the country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect 5,561 acres of critical habitat for the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in Clark County, Nev. The butterfly, found only in the Spring Mountains outside Las Vegas and nowhere else on Earth, was protected under the Endangered Species last September.

“The Mount Charleston blue is one of the most endangered butterflies in the world, and so it’s wonderful news that this animal is getting the habitat protection it needs to survive,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center.

The fewer than 100 remaining Mount Charleston blue butterflies are threatened by fire-suppression activities and recreational development. Conservationists first petitioned for the butterfly’s protection in 2005.

The tiny butterfly is found only on upper elevations of Mount Charleston, about 35 miles northwest of

Las Vegas in the U.S. Forest Service-managed Spring Mountain National Recreation Area. The butterfly’s habitat — open forests with little understory vegetation and exposed mineral soil — has been threatened by attempts to suppress natural fires that have led to overgrown forests. Specifically the butterfly’s habitat has been hurt in recent years by Forest Service fuel-reduction projects, in which small trees and brush were chipped and spread on the ground, covering the butterfly’s host plants.

The Mount Charleston blue was first identified as a distinctive subspecies of the wider-ranging Shasta blue butterfly in 1928. The butterfly is less than an inch long; males are iridescent blue and gray, while the females are a more subdued brown-gray.

“Saving the Mount Charleston blue butterfly will preserve an essential piece of the natural world that makes life on Earth more beautiful and interesting for all of us,” said Curry.

So far under the Center’s landmark 2011 settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service, 120 species have gained Endangered Species Act protection and another 23 have been proposed for protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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