Bid to protect 4 Nevada butterfly subspecies nixed

RENO - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a conservation group's request to protect four Nevada butterfly subspecies under the Endangered Species Act.

A thorough review determined such a listing was not warranted for the Baking Powder Flat blue butterfly, the bleached sandhill skipper, the Steptoe Valley crescentspot and the White River Valley skipper, said Ted Koch, state supervisor of the agency's Nevada office.

The 12-month review determined the four butterfly subspecies native to the Great Basin in Nevada are not threatened by factors such as livestock grazing, off-highway vehicles, mining and energy development, water development and fire, he said Friday.

"Our analysis found none of these potential threats alone or in combination threaten the four subspecies across all or in any significant portion of their ranges," Koch said in a statement.

The four subspecies are found in White Pine, Lincoln, Nye or Humboldt counties.

The agency's review was in response to a 2010 petition from WildEarth Guardians requesting that 10 subspecies of Great Basin butterflies in Nevada and California be listed as threatened or endangered.

In October 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced the Santa Fe, N.M.-based group did not present "substantial scientific or commercial information" that listing six of the subspecies was warranted.

At the same time, the agency determined substantial information was presented to warrant a 12-month review of the other four subspecies.

Mark Salvo, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, said Friday that he was still studying the agency's latest decision.

"It is concerning that, although the service cannot determine the exact range of these butterflies or estimate their populations, the agency has still determined that they don't warrant listing," he told The Associated Press. "In a time of accelerating species extinction, the federal government should be taking a more precautionary approach to species protection."

The four butterfly species were among more than 800 animal and plant species covered in a settlement agreement between WildEarth Guardians and the Fish and Wildlife Service that was approved by a federal judge in September 2011. The settlement requires the government to consider endangered protections for the species.


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