Conservationists Sue to Protect Sand Mountain blue butterfly in Nevada

Neil Jones neil at
Sat Jan 7 10:04:08 EST 2006

On Fri, 2006-01-06 at 21:35, Mike Leski wrote:
> Yea, this is a sticky one.  Last year I was in Reno, and trying to
> identify leps that I might pursue come the summer season.  This blue
> got my attention.  I researched the internet, be that as it may, and
> found that the good ol' boys had identified a number of sites where
> they thought the lep could fly, based on host plant records.  I had
> planned to visit one or two, but fortunately spent the summer in far
> better lep territory.
> Now, I have no idea who is right, concerning the need to restrict this
> spot from 4-wheelers.  However, the part I didn't like from the story
> Mike forwarded was the 'found nowhere else' comment about the host. 
> Is this true?  I kind of doubt it.  Is it true of the butterfly???
> Mike

It very likely is true. The buckwheat plants which this group of blue
butterflies utilise as foodplants are very variable and have evolved
into many many different forms. It would seem that many of these forms
have their own unique butterfly that is specialised to feed on them. One
example I am very familiar with is the El Segundo Blue which utilises a
very localised buckwheat which only grows in and around the Los Angeles
airport (The largest of the only 3 colonies occurs in the airport
grounds.) This creature is dependent on its buckwheat also as a nectar
source, and the buckwheat used by its nearest relative just a few miles
away is poisonous to its larvae. The remnant area of habitat here is
also known as a source for other endemics.
One of the features of certain kinds of habitats is that local
conditions can lead to hotspots of endemism. Where a particular area
supports insects and plants which are found nowhere else on earth.

It would seem that this is also the case with the Sand Mountain area.
There no fewer than 16 endemics recorded from the locality.

Of course it is always possible that the blue occurs elsewhere, although
given the ecology and taxonomy of the group it is unlikely. However,
this is what the lawsuit is all about. A group of conservation bodies
petitioned for the species to be listed.
The government then should have investigated the matter, they could then
then have surveyed and located other populations.
They didn't do this, as they law says they should. The result is that a
coalition of organisations is taking them to court to force them to obey
the law.

At the end of this process we should know whether it is reasonable to
restrict Off Road Vehicles from the area, but without doing the research
which these good citizens groups are trying to force the government to
do we will not know.

I hope that all the decent lepidopterists on this list will agree with
me that we don't want to see one of these lovely creatures driven into
extinction by the needless destruction of their habitat.

Neil Jones
Neil at


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