Small wonders happen.
Pulitzer Prize winning naturalist and photographer Edwin Way Teale understood the value of the tiniest wonders in nature and the importance of conserving them. He wrote the following in his Circle of the Seasons in 1953:
“The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues—self-restraint. Why cannot I take as many trout as I want from a stream? Why cannot I bring home from the woods a rare wildflower? Because if I do, everybody in this democracy should be able to do the same. My act will be multiplied endlessly.”
Two weeks ago the Center for Biological Diversity announced the Mount Charleston blue butterfly has finally been listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
According to the Center, the blue butterfly is found exclusively in the state of Nevada and depends on a highly specialized mountain habitat where its larval-host plant called Torrey’s milkvetch can be found. Important areas to the butterfly’s survival have been threatened by fire suppression work and development.
The Center’s ecologist Rob Mrowka described the butterfly’s habitat as open forest with exposed top soil with very little vegetation. Forest Service work to prevent wild fires by spreading sawdust and woodchips on the forest floor has greatly diminished the needed habit.
"This is great news for one of Nevada's rarest species. The beautiful Mount Charleston blue butterfly is in desperate need of help, and we've got to move quickly," said Mrowka.
The blue butterfly’s habitat is only found at high elevations to the east of Spring Mountains in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, located not far from Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada.
The tiny, illusive blue butterfly, which has a wingspan of ¾ inches, is a subspecies of the Shasta blue butterfly, which occupies a less specialized, wider range. The males are dark blue iridescent color and the females are brownish with a bluish sheen. Their wings have patterns of black spots.
It has taken years to get ESA protection for many species, as most languish on the “candidate” list for years, with some becoming extinct while waiting.
The Center for Biological Diversity has been a champion of threatened species has an agreement with the USFWS to speed up decisions on 757 species currently waiting for protection. Only 108 have actually been elevated to “endangered” status, while 61 have moved up the ladder.
Two years ago, during efforts to count the remaining blue butterflies only 17 could be found.