The Fish and Wildlife Service announced (PDF) that it is initiating a 12-month status review of a petition to list the Hermes copper butterfly (Hermelycaena [Lycaena] hermes) as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and to designate critical habitat.  Hermes copper butterflies are known to range from Fallbrook, California, in northern San Diego County to 18 miles south of Santo Tomas in Baja California, Mexico, and from Pine Valley in eastern San Diego County to Lopez Canyon in western San Diego County.  The species inhabits coastal sage scrub and southern mixed chaparral and is dependent on its larval host plant, Rhamnus crocea (spiny redberry), to complete its lifecycle.

The decision to review the butterfly is the result of a 90-day finding (PDF) by the Service indicating listing may be warranted.  Twice previously interested parties unsuccessfully petitioned to have the species listed, in 1991 and 2004.  Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the Service’s negative finding on the 2004 petition and, in October, reached a settlement agreement with the Obama administration whereby the Service agreed to review the petition again and to look at all new information about the butterfly and its habitat that has become available since the not substantial finding in 2006.

The Service is soliciting information about the butterfly and its habitat from interested parties for its 12-month status review.  Information must be received on or before July 6, 2010 and may be submitted to either:  Federal eRulemaking Portal: (search for docket FWS-R8-ES-2010-0031 and then follow the instructions for submitting comments); or by U.S. mail or hand-delivery addressed to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2010-0031; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.