Butterflies (3 spp.) and the F&WS

Pierre A Plauzoles sphinxangelorum at bigfoot.com
Wed Sep 5 03:33:52 EDT 2001

Mark Walker wrote:

> Neil Jones wrote:
> < some really interesting stuff on the life cycle of Euphydryas>
> and then provided
> <some data purportedly verifying the susceptibility of Euphydryas to
> extinction due to overcollecting>
> He also said,
> >
> > The second reason why, I believe, the USFWS is worried about
> > overcollection
> > is THIS LIST.
> > Over the years there have been people prepared to defend even
> > the worst
> > and craziest philatelic collectors. Conswequently it is
> > hardly surprising that people
> > are worried.
> There are just as many, if not more, people on this list who worry about an
> entirely different evil.
> I find it increasingly difficult to respect laws that are supposed to be
> protecting species, when they fail to accomplish their goal.  When you
> suggest that overcollecting (or human predation, or whatever else you want
> to call it) might be the underlying cause for the elimination of a species
> (or sub-species), you are seriously downplaying the role played by habitat
> fragmentation and destruction.  You are wrongly shifting the focus away from
> this obvious problem, and onto the notorious butterfly collector.  The
> result is an intoxication of the public which lullabies them into thinking
> that as long as the collectors are at bay, the beautiful butterflies are
> safe.  The reality is that 99% of the butterflies are safe anyway, and the
> other 1% are doomed because their habitat requirements are no longer met -
> be it due to human or environmental pressures.  I don't disagree that there
> are many cases of "endangered" lepidopteron colonies throughout even
> unpopulated areas.  I don't disagree that local populations under
> significant threat should potentially be controlled.  But please, let's
> first secure the necessary habitat and give both the leps and the collectors
> a chance.
> I'd like to think that El Segundo is an example of where listing has worked.
> On the other hand, I don't have a lot of confidence that that property is
> sheltered enough from real estate valuation, nor am I convinced that it's
> large enough to allow for the various normal spatial fluctuations that you
> yourself describe.

I agree with both Neil and Mark -- to an extent.  The one serious flaw I see is
the percentages.  It may well be true that only 1% of the lepidopteran
population of the world is truly threatened, but I think that probably closer to
20%, possibly even 40 or 50% of the populations in some parts of the world, such
as the US and the tropical rainforests is in some level of danger for one reason
or another, especially from habitat loss by either destruction for real estate
development (either for housing or for industrial use) or alteration by removal
of water supply or conversion to agricultural use (I am here thinking of what
happened to Owens Valley when Los Angeles started taking water from the Owens
River, and of the deforestation of the tropics).

As for the Fish and Wildlife Service, if the Passport Service and Immigration
and Naturalization Service can establish a foothold in Paris' Charles de Gaulle
Airport for American citizens returning home to clear the goods we buy overseas
through Customs, why can't the FWS do likewise and have someone at least on an
on-call basis to assist in clearing items over which they have jurisdiction?
Have the Powers That Be in Washington found a way to predict before we leave
what we will find on our research trips to Brazil or Zanzibar or Andorra (or
wherever else) that we don't know about yet?  If so, they should tell us so that
we can do a better job filling out the forms they so dearly want done right.


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