LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A rare butterfly found near the Nevada-Idaho border could be lost forever if a geothermal project is allowed to continue, according to environmental advocates.
The bleached sandhill skipper, a butterfly submitted for protection in 2022 by the Center for Biological Diversity, may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, according to a Wednesday announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Two known habitats for the butterfly have been affected by activity in the area southwest of Denio, Nevada.
According to a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity, the butterflies live in two Nevada alkali wetlands, where they rely on plants for laying eggs and feeding on nectar. Water diversions for agriculture have dried up Gridley Lake, one of the skipper’s habitats. The second habitat — Baltazor Hot Springs — is threatened by a geothermal energy project that could dry up the hot springs.
Bleached sandhill skippers are among more than 300 species and subspecies of plants and animals that only exist in Nevada. Dozens of these species are threatened with extinction and need Endangered Species Act protections to survive, according to Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“I’m pleased that the bleached sandhill skipper is crossing this important milestone toward getting vital life-saving protections under the Endangered Species Act,” Donnelly said. “The window of opportunity to save this butterfly is closing and this decision comes not a moment too soon.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has 12 months to decide whether to protect the imperiled butterflies.