The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday it is proposing to list a butterfly native to San Diego County as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Hermes copper butterfly’s habitat is limited to San Diego County and northwestern Baja California. Fish and Wildlife officials said the increased frequency and magnitude of wildfires, as well as habitat loss and fragmentation from land conversion, is contributing to the butterfly’s declining numbers. It is proposing to designate around 35,000 acres of critical habitat in San Diego County.
The proposal to add the Hermes butterfly to the Endangered Species list includes a special rule granting permission for certain activities necessary for public safety and to benefit the butterfly, such as fuel breaks and firefighting activities, survey and monitoring work for scientific inquiry and captive-rearing of Hermes copper butterflies for the purpose of reintroduction in coordination with Fish and Wildlife.
“The service has been working with the San Diego Association of Governments, the U.S. Marine Corps and others to conserve this species in conjunction with regional Habitat Conservation Planning efforts,” said Paul Souza, regional director of the service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “The proposal recognizes benefits to the species associated with management of preserve areas established through our regional Habitat Conservation Planning efforts.”
Hermes copper butterflies, first identified in 1927, are brown with orange on the upper wings, and have yellow undersides with black dots. They lays eggs exclusively on spiny redberry bushes, found in coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitats.
A 60-day comment period will begin Wednesday on the proposal and run through March 9. Information on how to submit comments is available at regulations.gov by searching FWS-R8-ES-2017-0053.