Island Marble one of top ten wildlife, fish and plants in need of Endangered Species Act Protection

For immediate release:
December 16, 2008
Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director, The Xerces Society; 503-449-3792
Noah Greenwald, Biodiversity Program Director, Center for Biological Diversity; 503-484-7495
Leda Huta, Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition; 202-320-6467

New report “Without a Net” details need for new administration to protect vulnerable wildlife.

Washington DCA new report details how the island marble butterfly is languishing without protection even though it may be on the brink of extinction.  The new report lists the island marble as one of ten species that have been named the most in-need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.  With a population of less than 2,000 individuals and multiple threats to its survival the island marble is one of the most imperiled butterflies in the U.S.

“It is extremely clear that this butterfly deserves Endangered Species Act protection,” said Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “We are very disappointed that politics interfered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to protect this rare butterfly.”

In 2006, Fish and Wildlife Service issued a positive 90-day finding, indicating that listing for the butterfly may be warranted and initiated a listing determination process.  The review was conducted as the result of a petition submitted by the Xerces Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the San Juans, and Conservation Northwest. In conversations with the Xerces Society during the review process, Fish and Wildlife Service biologists stated that the butterfly met all of the criteria for listing. However, in September 2006, the same biologists said they were no longer allowed to discuss the listing. In November the Service denied protection to the island marble butterfly without legal or scientific justification.

The island marble butterfly faces multiple threats from development, road maintenance, invasive plants and severe weather events. This butterfly historically lived along coastal grasslands and adjacent prairies in British Columbia on the Gabriola and Vancouver Islands, and in Washington state on the San Juan Islands. It was thought to have gone extinct in the early 1900s, but was rediscovered in 1998 on San Juan Island. The island marble feeds on field mustard and tumble mustard and is dependent on coastal habitat and the adjacent prairies on San Juan Island and Lopez Island.

“The island marble and dozens of other species have been denied the protection they deserve by eight years of the Bush administration,” said Noah Greenwald, Biodiversity Program Director for the Center for Biological Diversity.  “We look forward to an administration that cares about scientific integrity and wildlife.”

The Bush Administration, however, has protected the fewest species of any administration since the law was passed, to date only protecting 62 species, compared to 522 under the Clinton Administration and 231 under the senior Bush Administration.

The Bush Administration argues they have listed fewer species because their resources have been tied-up by lawsuits.  Funds for litigation, however, come primarily from the Department of Justice rather than Fish and Wildlife’s budget for listing new species.  Moreover, the Bush Administration actually has more money for listing of species than previous administrations and is listing fewer species per million dollars than the previous administration (see Indeed, all of the 62 species protected by the Bush administration were done so under one or more court orders.

For more information on this report:

To read about the island marble butterfly: