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Environmental group plans lawsuit to save endangered blue butterfly

Updated August 20, 2020 - 1:58 pm

The Center for Biological Diversity said Thursday it will sue two federal agencies to block a ski resort expansion that it says could lead to the extinction of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly.

“The beautiful Mount Charleston blue butterfly is teetering on the brink of extinction and a downhill sports amusement park is the last thing it needs,” Patrick Donnelly, the center’s state director, said in a statement.

The nonprofit conservation group said it filed a notice of intent Thursday to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service. Donnelly said the Endangered Species Act requires a 60-day notice before litigation to allow the agencies time to correct the issues raised.

“The proposed ski-resort expansion would include new lift-assisted downhill mountain bike trails and a ‘mountain coaster,’” the center said in a statement. “These developments would open the area to summertime operations and thousands of visitors when the butterfly is active and most vulnerable.”

Donnelly said a similar development endangered the butterfly in the first place. Fewer than 100 of the species, which was added to the endangered species list in 2013, have been observed over the past five years, the center said.

“Previous recreational developments are exactly what made this butterfly endangered to begin with, so we’re intervening to prevent the government from dooming this species,” he said.

The butterfly lives predominantly in the Lee Canyon area, where the center said many new picnic areas, campgrounds and other recreational areas have been planned.

The center cited the Endangered Species Act, arguing in its notice that the federal departments failed to ensure that the ski area wouldn’t endanger the butterflies by destroying or harming their habitat.

“The Endangered Species Act is the most successful conservation law in the world at preventing extinction, but sometimes we need to intervene to ensure that the government follows the law,” Donnelly said. “We’re in the middle of an extinction crisis, and we can’t afford to lose this unique and incredibly imperiled butterfly.”

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter.

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