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Hawai'i CFS

Center for Food Safety Demands Endangered Species Protection for Imperiled Butterfly

April 02, 2024
Center for Food Safety

San Francisco, CA — Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) announced plans to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by continuing to ignore the imperiled Iowa skipper butterfly's imminent risk of extinction. The Iowa skipper, a bright yellow-orange butterfly, is being driven to the brink of extinction primarily due to industrial agriculture's continued habitat destruction and use of toxic pesticides. In March 2023, CFS filed a formal "listing" petition seeking protection for the imperiled Iowa skipper butterfly, yet the agency has violated the ESA by failing to act for over a year.

"Pollinators, including the Iowa skipper butterfly, are critical to public and environmental health. Trading their extinction to pad pesticide companies' profits is incredibly irresponsible, and unlawful. We urge the Biden administration to act to protect this iconic butterfly without further delay." said George Kimbrell, Co-Executive Director and Legal Director at CFS. 

Today's petition marks the latest action of CFS's extinction crisis program: a prior campaign succeeded in getting ESA protections for Monarch butterflies, which will be established later this year.

Iowa Skipper background:

The major factor contributing to the decline of the skipper and putting its survival at risk is the massive destruction of its prairie habitat, which has been largely converted to intensive row crop agriculture, and the increasing use of toxic pesticides accompanying that conversion, which directly harm the butterfly and its surrounding habitat. The skipper's survival is also threatened by climate change, invasive species, and the vulnerability of its small, isolated colonies. Roughly 99 percent of the U.S.'s 148 million acres of tallgrass prairie habitat has been destroyed.

The Iowa skipper is considered an indicator of high-quality prairie habitat. The skipper's habitat varies across its range and includes shortgrass, mixed, and tallgrass prairies. Because of widespread habitat destruction from industrial agriculture, the Iowa skipper remains in mere patches in its range across the Great Plains and Midwest, spanning 14 states from eastern Montana to Illinois and south to Texas. The skipper is no longer common or secure in any state and the species may have already disappeared from Iowa and Minnesota.

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