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Conservation Group Continues BioBlitz Celebration of Year of Biodiversity

Second Week is "E.O. Wilson" Week, Honoring Harvard Entomologist & "The little things that run the Earth"

DENVER, C.O.-Jan. 4. WildEarth Guardians’ BioBlitz continues this week by honoring E.O. Wilson with an initiative focused on protecting invertebrate animals. The “BioBlitz” is an eight-week intensive effort to save imperiled animals and plants from extinction in celebration of the International Year of Biodiversity. The BioBlitz began on December 28, the 36-year anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, in tribute to the law’s role in protecting biodiversity. On each of the 36 consecutive working days of its BioBlitz, Guardians will file a formal petition or lawsuit to obtain Endangered Species Act protection for species on the edge of extinction.

During the current “E. O. Wilson Week,” as Dr. Wilson states, “Attention is turning (at last!) to invertebrates and microorganisms, which are what I like to call ‘the little things that run the Earth’ and to their immense diversity, still largely unknown diversity, and their degree of imperilment. Any effort to move them onto center stage will be of great value to conservation.”

Dr. Wilson is the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and is Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University. He is scheduled to deliver the opening address of the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity in Paris in January. In honor of Dr. Wilson’s life-work, all species in this week’s BioBlitz line-up are invertebrates, and include the following actions:

January 4: a lawsuit to compel Endangered Species Act protection for the Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly, imperiled by climate change, pesticides and other threats.

January 5: a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government’s denial of Endangered Species Act protection to the Narrow-foot Diving Beetle, whose range is ground zero for Powder River Basin coalbed methane extraction

January 6: a petition for Endangered Species Act protection of the Unsilvered Fritillary, a coastal California butterfly imperiled by burgeoning human populations, climate change, and other factors.

January 7: a lawsuit to force Endangered Species Act listing for the Brian Head Mountainsnail, a snail found only near the summit of Brian Head Peak in southwestern Utah, which would be wiped out if the nearby ski resort expands.

January 8: a lawsuit to force Endangered Species Act listing for the Arapahoe Snowfly, a stonefly found in just two small streams in northern Colorado, both of which are threatened by increasing development and recreation pressures.

This week’s spotlight species is the Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly, native to the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico, where it is found on only 2,000 acres. Within its tiny range, this high-elevation meadow resident faces a multitude of dangers, including climate change, insecticide spraying, livestock grazing, off-road vehicles, and others. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed this butterfly for federal protection in 2001, it withdrew its proposal in 2004 and has refused to provide legal safeguards ever since. Today’s lawsuit challenges the government’s latest denial, in September 2009, of protections for this rare and dwindling checkerspot butterfly.

“With E.O. Wilson Week, we underscore the importance of protecting the smallest of nature’s creatures. We are pressing the government to step up protections for imperiled invertebrates, rather than refuse safeguards for these small but often ecologically mighty species,” said Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.

Interior Secretary Salazar has utterly failed to use the Endangered Species Act to protect species. In fact, new Endangered Species Act listings have reached an all-time low. In 2009, Salazar protected only two new U.S. species under the law, despite over 330 deserving species formally awaiting protection. Through its BioBlitz, Guardians is stepping up pressure on the U.S. government to list needy species, before they go extinct.

Each week of the BioBlitz will illustrate a particular theme. Last week was Climate Crisis Week. Next week is Prairie Week.

“The Endangered Species Act has an A+ record in preventing extinction: over 99% of the species protected under it are still with us today. We can’t afford further delay by the federal government in protection for animals and plants on the brink,” stated Rosmarino.

WildEarth Guardians has been at the forefront of endangered species enforcement in the U.S. The group is a formal partner in the United Nation’s Year of Biodiversity (see here), in which “The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.”

View the Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly fact sheet (PDF)

View the Narrow-foot Diving Beetle fact sheet (PDF)

View the Unsilvered Fritillary fact sheet (PDF)

View the Brian Head Mountainsnail fact sheet (PDF)

View the Arapahoe Snowfly fact sheet (PDF)


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