Critical Habitat Proposed for Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly
Critical Habitat Proposed for Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly

On August 10, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas Anicia cloudcrofti) under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed critical habitat designation encompasses 1,636.9 acres of land in the Sacramento Mountains in Otero County, New Mexico, and follows the Service’s January 2023 final rule listing the species as endangered.

As explained in the proposed rule, the Service considered physical and biological features “essential to the conservation of the species” in proposing to designate the critical habitat. These features included: an open meadow and grassland habitat within a larger mixed-conifer forest in high-altitude areas in the Sacramento Mountains; presence of the species’ preferred larval host plant, New Mexico beardtongue (Penstemon neomexicanus) and preferred adult nectar source, orange sneezeweed (Hymenoxys hoopesii); habitat connectivity of up to 2,920 feet between populations or areas of suitable habitat to allow for gene flow; and less than five percent canopy cover. The Service noted the species faces threats include grazing, recreation, invasive and nonnative plants, climate change, and altered fire regime.

The proposed rule indicates that the Service will accept public comments on the proposed critical habitat designation until October 10, 2023. The Service specifically seeks comments on: information regarding the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly habitat; the impacts of land use designations and activities in the surrounding areas on the proposed critical habitat; economic, national security, or other impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation along with the benefits of including or excluding certain areas; and whether the Service could improve its approach to designating critical habitat to facilitate increased public participation and understanding.

  • Sara F. Greenberg

    Sara Greenberg assists in advising clients on environmental and land use matters involving the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the ...

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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