Albuquerque, N.M. –The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reopen the public comment period and host a public hearing for the proposal to designate approximately 1,636.9 acres of critical habitat in Otero County, New Mexico, for the endangered Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti). This action is in response to a request received during the comment period following the Aug. 10 proposed rule.
The Service will host an online public hearing for participants to ask questions and give comments on the Zoom platform on Dec. 12 from 5-8 p.m. MST. Information on how to participate in the public hearing is available on the Service website. The public can access the proposed critical habitat rule at the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly species page. This extended comment period will end Dec 27. Comments previously submitted need not be resubmitted and will be fully considered in preparation of the final rule.
This proposed critical habitat designation identifies areas that are particularly important to the conservation of this butterfly, where actions of federal agencies or activities that require a federal permit or funding must be analyzed to prevent adverse modification of their habitat. It does not mean that development cannot occur in these areas, only that federal agencies must consult with the Service if they are conducting, funding or permitting activities that may affect the species.
The Sacramento Mountains is an isolated mountain range in south-central New Mexico. The butterfly is small and checkered with dark brown, red, orange, cream, and black spots, punctuated with dark lines. During development, the checkerspot butterfly larvae change from bare and brown to wooly and black with orange hairs. The butterfly only inhabits the Sacramento Mountains’ high-altitude meadows. It requires a specific host plant and nectar sources for survival.
Surveys completed in the 1990s found the butterfly occupied approximately 32 square miles near the village of Cloudcroft, N.M. A 2020 survey estimated the butterfly occupies approximately two square miles of suitable habitat.
The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is imperiled by a variety of threats including incompatible grazing, recreation, invasive and nonnative plants, , and an altered fire regime.
Information on how to submit comments will be available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS-R2-ES-2023-0023. Information on how to request a hearing is also included in the Federal Register notice.