Crag’s attorneys are currently representing the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in a battle to save a species of butterfly that was once thought to be extinct. The story of the Island Marble Butterfly begins on Vancouver Island in British Columbia in 1861 with the first recorded sighting by Canadian scientists. Many years later, the butterfly mysteriously vanished, with the last sighting documented in 1908 on nearby Gabriola Island. For the next 90 years the Island Marble was believed to be extinct, but it was then rediscovered on Washington State’s San Juan Island in 1998.
The shocking rediscovery of this previously extinct subspecies prompted significant scientific research and investigation seeking to identify the Island Marble Butterfly’s habitat, total population and geographic bounds. Extensive surveys identified at least 52 different sites where the butterfly was living on both San Juan Island and Lopez Island. In addition, it was believed that there were five separate populations of the Island Marble Butterfly that were living throughout the 52 identified locations. Scientists also identified three varieties of mustard plants that have allowed for the re-emergence of the Island Marble Butterfly. Only one of the species of mustard plants, however, is native to San Juan and Lopez Islands.
Since its rediscovery, populations of the Island Marble butterfly have declined by as much as 70%. The increasing population of Blacktail deer, increased residential development and the application of insecticides are encroaching on the native grassland habitat that supports the butterfly. With the Island Marble facing the threat of extinction, the Xerces Society filed a petition with the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife to have the Island Marble Butterfly listed as an Endangered Species on an emergency basis.
Despite the incredible story of the Island Marble, FWS has so far sat on its hands and refused to take action on the listing petition. This is where Crag stepped in. Just this month, Crag filed a lawsuit against the FWS on behalf of the Xerces Society to protect the Island Marble butterfly as an endangered species.
A win for the Xerces Society and the Island Marble Butterfly – with Crag’s assistance – would help protect not only this unique endemic species but also the beautiful grassland habitat in Northwest Washington. Both of these results would contribute to a healthier ecosystem for San Juan and Lopez Islands and would help to ensure the survival of the Island marbled Butterfly for generations to come.
For more information on the Island Marble butterfly, check out these links:
Joshua Berg is an undergraduate intern at Crag from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and is funded by the Duke Engage Summer Program. He is a rising sophomore and currently plans on majoring in Environmental Science and Policy.