We strongly support the Girl Scouts’ efforts to increase girls’ access to the outdoors and all that nature has to offer. We sincerely hope the scouts find a way to keep Camp Foxtail open (“Butterfly prompts Girl Scouts to close camp near Las Vegas,” Oct. 22 Review-Journal). But let’s be clear: The camp is not closing because of the highly endangered Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
In recent years, butterfly surveys have found just a handful of individuals, suggesting this creature could go extinct at any moment. Partially because of the efforts of the organization I work for, the butterfly was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2013, and protected critical habitat was designated in 2015.
But these protections have little impact on Camp Foxtail. The butterfly has not been observed at the camp for more than 50 years, and the boundary of the critical habitat was very intentionally drawn to exclude the camp.
While permits would be required from the Forest Service before renovations or new construction could occur, that would be true even if the butterfly were not endangered. And a one-inch butterfly could hardly be responsible for structural issues in the camp’s buildings, nor for the deteriorating condition of the camp’s water system.
Development happens alongside endangered species and within their habitats all the time. Habitat conservation plans, like the massive one that Clark County uses, enable conservation of endangered species and reasonable levels of development.
With proper planning, people and endangered species coexist and thrive together all across the country. Nothing about the Mount Charleston blue butterfly’s endangered status is preventing Camp Foxtail from remaining open.