A beautiful white and green butterfly with a marbled hind wing, the island marble once fluttered about in the open grasslands and Garry oak woodlands of Washington's San Juan Islands and Canada's Gabriola and Vancouver Islands. Last seen in 1908, it was believed extinct until a small population was found 90 years later in the San Juan Island National Historical Park. Scientists believe this is the only viable population of island marble butterflies in the world — one catastrophic event could wipe out the whole population.
Back in 2002 the Center and allies petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the island marble butterfly as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Although the law requires the Service to determine if a species is indeed endangered within a year of a petition filed, the agency took no action for the island marble until we sued the Service to respond.
The Service finally acknowledged our petition was warranted in February 2004, beginning a review of the butterfly's status. But in November of that year, the agency decided that the butterfly didn't protection, claiming that enough populations of the island marble existed to justify its listing denial — even though scientists argue that only one of these populations is viable.
Finally, in 2020, the Service granted this little butterfly the Endangered Species Act protection it needs, plus 812 acres of federally protected habitat.
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2002 Endangered Species Act petition