Letter-Writing Made a Difference
Your Letters Needed to Help the Karner Blue Butterfly
|by Lynne Jackson, Mar./Apr.
The Karner Blue has been proposed to be listed as an endangered
species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the butterfly
is listed as an endangered species with a designated critical
habitat, any developments proposed within the habitat would
need to have a federal permit in order to be built. Obtaining
a federal permit is a much more rigorous and difficult process
to go through than the zoning changes or Planning Board approvals-and
much less subject to local political whims.
The current proposal does not include critical habitat for the
Karner Blue. The Federal Register states, "designation of critical
habitat for the Karner Blue Butterfly is not presently determinable."
Apparently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not aware
that there is plenty of information available to determine that
a minimum of 2000 acres of fire manageable Pine Bush is needed
for the survival of the Karner Blue Butterfly. All of the remaining
undeveloped Pine Bush bordered by Fuller Road to the east, Central
Avenue to the North, Western Avenue to the South and Route 146
to the West should be designated as critical habitat.
Please send a letter before March 26 asking that the Karner
Blue be listed as an endangered species, and the Pine Bush as
a critical habitat. Write to the New York Field Office, U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, 100 Grange Place, Room 202, Cortland,
New York 13045. The contact at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
is Mark W. Clough at 607/753-9334.
If you would like more information or assistance with writing
a letter, please call Lynne Jackson at 434-1954. The listing
is very important to the survival of the Pine Bush. Please send
a letter-it will make a difference!
This letter writing campaign made a difference!
The Federal Government listed the Butterfly as an endangered
December 14, 1992. The story is as follows:
Karner Blue Protected
Federal Listing Unexpected
by Daniel W. Van Riper
The Environmental Protection Agency has placed the Karner Blue
Butterfly on it's register of endangered species, opening the
way for the Federal Government to intervene in Pine Bush preservation
cases. This listing protects not only individual butterflies,
but also the habitats in which they are found, a major boost
to efforts to preserve the Pine Bush.
The prohibition against harming the butterfly applies not only
to federal agencies, but to every citizen of the United States.
Violators of the Endangered Species Act, including developers,
can be fined up to $500,000.
SPB member John Wolcott apparently was the first to make public
the listing, calling local reporters on Saturday, Jan. 2, after
receiving notice from the EPA in the mail. All persons who testified
about the listing were given notification. Protection officially
began on December 14, but state and local officials have not
indicated if they have had prior notice.
An application for listing the Karner Blue as an endangered
species was first made in 1977, but was turned down several
years later. At that time the butterfly was still easy to find
in the Pine Bush, and in other states. As their numbers declined
as a result of illegal zoning changes by the city of Albany
and other municipalities, the application was made again.
The EPA endangered species list was frozen during most of the
Reagan-Bush years, ensuring that sensitive habitats would be
destroyed without federal intervention. The application languished
despite testimony by experts that a crisis was at hand, and
a letter writing campaign by SPB members. The opening of the
list in the lame-duck days of George Bush thus comes as a complete
The listing has come almost too late. Numbers are down alarmingly,
and sightings of the butterfly last summer in the usual places
were rare. It seems to be confined to isolated spots, some of
which are cut off from the main pieces of preserve already in
place. Ironically, one of the largest populations is on the
Crossgates plot, a sad little "preserve" surrounded by a fence
in the middle of the Crossgates Mall parking lot. This plot
was created as a condition of building the Mall, which destroyed
180 acres of prime butterfly habitat.
Recognizing that the Federal government under the new administration
will likely take a dim view of destroying an endangered species'
habitat, the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation has decided
to hold up a permit for expansion of Crossgates Mall, subject
to review over whether or not construction will affect the parking
Coming just days after the listing was made public, this is
the first instance of building being halted in the Pine Bush
as a consequence. This is especially welcome news, because this
expansion was considered by SPB to be too far from the main
preserve sites to warrant use of limited resources to fight.
The EPA plans to monitor habitat sites in the Pine Bush, and
has indicated that it wants to begin a program of repopulating
Some Excerpts from the Federal Register
The good news for Lycaeides melissa samuelis is
made official by nine pages in the Federal Register, Vol. 57
no. 240. Here are some relevant quotes:
"The US Fish and Wildlife Service determines the Karner blue
butterfly to be an endangered species pursuant to the Endangered
Species Act of 1973... The action is being taken because of
constriction of the species range and the declining size of
remaining populations. The primary cause of past and threatened
losses is habitat modification and destruction due to development...
and fragmentation of remaining habitat...
"Over the past 100 years, the butterfly numbers have apparently
declined rangewide by 99 percent or more. Over 90 percent of
the decline occurred in the last 10 to 15 years. It is now extirpated
[wiped out] from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Ohio...
"The NYS Natural Heritage Program maintains a state list of
approximately 50 individual butterfly sites, comprising about
ten site-clusters, all found in the area known as the Albany
Pine Bush and at scattered locations extending about 40 miles
to the north. Once the site of a massive Karner blue population,
the Albany Pine Bush is the locality from which the butterfly
was first scientifically described...
"(Scientists) described the decline in the Pine Bush population
as dropping from numbers of 80,000 in 1979, to around 1,000
in 1987, to 100-200 in 1990...
"Two commentators stated the need to clarify how prohibitions
against 'take' would be applied... The Service responds that
'take' as defined in Section 3(18) of the Act means to harass,
harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect,
or attempt to engage in any such conduct, and the prohibitions
against 'take' are applicable to any person subject to the jurisdiction
of the United States...
"Such (an) act may include significant habitat modification
or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife by
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including
breeding, feeding, or sheltering. Since some form of the Karner
blue butterfly (eggs, larvae, or butterfly) is present at all
times in habitat where it occurs, prohibitions against 'take'
would apply to activities involving both the butterflies or
the occupied habitat."
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|This page last modified
January 20, 2019
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