FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 4, 2002
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that its preliminary evaluation of a rare Florida butterfly, the Miami blue, indicates that the subspecies may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Service is soliciting additional scientific information, particularly on its distribution and abundance, and public comment on the status of the subspecies in order to determine whether the Miami blue butterfly should be proposed for addition to the Federal list of threatened and endangered species.
The Miami blue is a small, pale blue butterfly. The female's hind wing has an orange spot at its lower edge. The underside of both sexes has two eyespots on the outer margin and a wide white submarginal band. Two other similar Hemiargus butterflies, the Florida and nickerbean blue, also occur in Florida and can be mistaken for this subspecies. The latter, a recent arrival from Cuba, has caused some confusion because it is not in guide books. A photograph of the Miami blue butterfly can be viewed on the Internet at: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/fl/248.htm.
Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association, Morristown, New Jersey, and Mr. Mark Salvato, an entomologist in St. Petersburg, Florida, petitioned the Service to list the species as endangered. An endangered species is defined as a species in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
The Service evaluated the petition based on the best scientific and commercial information available, including material provided by the petitioners and material in the Service's files. Service biologists found that those sources provide substantial information to suggest that listing of the Miami blue butterfly may be warranted. This finding does not, however, mean that the Service will necessarily determine that listing is warranted, or warranted but precluded by other higher priority listing actions. In order to determine whether listing is warranted, the Service is gathering all available scientific information and seeking additional information from the public on the status of the species and threats it faces.
Historic records of the Miami blue are from as far north as coastal Pinellas and Volusia counties in Florida. As recently as about 1990, it could still be seen at Sanibel Island in Lee County, Marco Island and Chokoloskee on the mainland of Collier County, the Homestead area in Miami-Dade County, and Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys portion of Monroe County. It was not seen at all between 1993 and 1999, until a confirmed sighting was reported in the magazine of the North American Butterfly Association. Since then, the Association has posted an additional reliable sighting of the butterfly on its website.
The Miami blue is thought to have formerly occupied coastal scrub and hammocks along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Much of this habitat has been destroyed by urban development. Suitable habitat is presumably still available in the Keys, potentially including pinelands of Big Pine Key and tropical hammocks on most of the Keys, including Key Largo.
Reasons for the Miami blue's decline include loss and fragmentation of its habitat due to land development and suppression of natural fires. Other factors may include unethical butterfly collection and mosquito control measures (i.e., spraying of adulticides).
The Service will review the status of this species and publish a decision on whether or not listing is warranted. Comments on the status of and threats to the Miami blue butterfly and its habitat may be submitted to the South Florida Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 32960. For additional information on this matter, contact Mr. David Martin at (561) 562-3909, extension 230.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System that encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.
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