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News & Releases
Mountain-Prairie Region

News Release

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Protects Two Prairie Butterfly Species Under Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release

October 23, 2014

Photo of a Dakota skipper (left) and a Poweshiek skipperling (right). Credit: USFWS.
Photo of a Dakota skipper (left) and a Poweshiek skipperling (right). Credit: USFWS.

The Dakota skipper is now protected as threatened and the Poweshiek skipperling is protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.  Both species are butterflies that depend on prairie habitat and have suffered population declines due to loss and degradation of their native grasslands. 

Found in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada, the Dakota skipper’s numbers have declined dramatically; it no longer occurs on  almost 75 percent of the sites where it was previously found.

The Poweshiek skipperling, once found in eight states and Canada, now occurs in only a few native prairie remnants in Wisconsin and Michigan and in Manitoba, Canada.  Surveys indicate Poweshiek skipperlings have vanished from about 96 percent of the sites where they once occurred.  It is uncertain if there are any existing Poweshiek skipperling populations in Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.

Under the ESA, endangered species are plants and animals that are in danger of becoming extinct.  Threatened species are those that may become endangered in the foreseeable future.  The ESA protects listed species from take, which includes harming, harassing, injuring or killing a species.

The Service also published a special “4(d)” rule for the Dakota skipper that exempts take of the species that may occur as a result of certain livestock ranching practices and specified trail and rights-of-way maintenance activities.  The final rule listing the two butterflies and the 4(d) rule for the Dakota skipper appear in the October 24, 2014, Federal Register.

“We recognize the reason we still have any Dakota skippers or Poweshiek skipperlings on the landscape at all is the conservation ethic of ranchers who have had the foresight to conserve grasslands in the Upper Midwest,” said Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius.  “Our hope is to continue to work with landowners and partners to conserve these butterflies and the valuable habitat they depend upon.”

The rule listing the two butterflies and the 4(d) rule become effective November 23, 2014. The Service continues to analyze information received from the public about its proposal to designate critical habitat for the two species, along with an economic analysis of the proposed critical habitat.  The Service expects to finalize critical habitat and the economic analysis at a future date.

For more information on the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling, go to http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/

– FWS –

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of External Affairs

Mountain-Prairie Region

134 Union Blvd

Lakewood, CO 80228


303-236-3815 FAX



Georgia Parham
812-334-4261 x 1203
Phil Delphey
612-725-3538 x 2206
Tamara Smith
612-725-3548 x 2219

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: October 23, 2014
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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