Friday, July 01, 2005
Professor says Bush administration is keeping a species off the endangered list. "In May the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it could not declare the Miami Blue an endangered species, even though the butterfly met the criteria, because it lacked the staff and money to protect it. The Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit group based in Tucson, Ariz., on Thursday filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the service over the decision.

In announcing its decision, the wildlife service claimed that scientists had failed in their attempts to reintroduce the butterfly to its former range.

Since releasing Miami Blues at Biscayne and Everglades national parks, researchers detected only 'an inconsistent or sporadic presence of only a small number of individuals,' stated the agency's written evaluation, published May 11 in the Federal Register. 'Monitoring results do not indicate that the Miami Blue has become established at any of the release sites.'

Thomas Emmel, professor of zoology and entomology at the University of Florida and director of the Miami Blue reintroduction project, said this assessment was completely false.

'That's just plain Bush administration manipulation of the data,' he exclaimed, after hearing the service's evaluation of his team's work. 'That's just another example of how politics drives biological observations.'

Emmel said his team has established 12 breeding colonies at Biscayne and Everglades national parks.

These colonies have all successfully reproduced through several generations in the wild. The total number of butterflies in the colonies ranges from about 50 to 500, with numbers hitting the low end of the range when most of the butterflies are in their larval stage.

'The reintroduction efforts are going quite well,' Emmel said.

He accused the Fish and Wildlife Service of deliberately minimizing the success of the team's work in order to make it appear that it would be too difficult to save the butterfly.

'What they're trying to do is justify why they're not supporting this,' he said. 'It's an attempt to suppress knowledge of any recovery of a new species.'
Emmel, author of 35 books, is among the world's leading experts on butterflies. He is director of the University of Florida's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, which holds the world's second largest collection of butterflies and moths."

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