Listing vs restricting collecting

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Mon Aug 30 07:50:48 EDT 1999

It is easy for regulators accustomed to dealing with birds and mammals 
to confuse the difference between listing a species as threatened or 
endangered and restricting collecting.  It's probably also easy for us 
who study leps to do the same.

There are important reasons for listing a species as threatened or 
endangered, but it just so happens that existing regulations on 
threatened and endangered status carry proscriptions regarding 
collecting and possession.  In my view the important thing to consider 
is that the regulations are not PRIMARILY to restrict collecting, but is 
what lepidopterists find galling.  The developers on the other hand, 
find that the regulations require them to set aside land, to mitigate, 
or can actually halt development.

It would be possible (and NJ is grappling with this now), to list a 
species as threatened and allow certain permitted collecting.  This 
obviously would NOT fly for an endangered listing (except for unusual 

If we can not list a species as threatened we can not use existing laws 
to preserve its habitat, so there would not be anything left to collect 
in a few years, anyway.  

So it's not that the collecting would eliminate the population.  Indeed, 
I would say that it is irrelevant whether collecting would eliminate the 

However, I would also counter the oft-expressed view that butterflies 
can't be overcollected.  As they become rarer and their value increases, 
there are commercial pressures to collect them for sale or trade. People 
who we like to refer to as "unscrupulous" will return day after day or 
week after week to collect as many as they can.  Although serious 
lepidopterists (such as people on this list) probably don't engage in 
such commercial exploitation, it is naive to assume that this doesn't 

Serious investigators (whether professional or amateur) can "usually" 
get permits to study and collect some listed species (and in NJ we are 
supporting the collection of voucher specimens for endangered species), 
to support the protection of their habitat.

Mike Gochfeld

Mike Gochfeld

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