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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reconsider whether two butterflies found predominantly in San Diego County should be evaluated for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reexamine the Thorne’s hairstreak and Hermes copper butterflies as part of a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that sued after earlier efforts to list the species were rejected.
Both butterflies are found in San Diego County, the Hermes is also found in parts of Baja California. The hairstreak feeds exclusively on the rare Tecate cypress tree, and its population is only known to exist around Otay Mountain, which has been hit twice by fire in the last six years. In 2003, when the entire mountain burned over, some biologists feared the hairstreak had gone extinct.
Cypress have suffered from both of those fires. They’ve also been affected by construction of a nearby segment of border fence.
The settlement doesn’t require Fish and Wildlife to determine whether the butterflies should be listed as endangered — only whether a subsequent in-depth, year-long analysis is needed. If the service decides to do the deeper analysis, that process would determine whether the species should be listed. Listing the butterflies as endangered would require the federal government to take steps to ensure that neither went extinct.
The service has until April to make a decision about the Thorne’s hairstreak and until May for the Hermes copper. It must also pay $14,726 in attorneys’ fees to the Center for Biological Diversity as part of the settlement.