FWC approves updates to the Miami blue plan
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Media contact: Ricardo Zambrano, 561-625-5122
(Back to Commission meeting
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) approved a revised Miami Blue Butterfly Management
Plan on Thursday.
The FWC began updating the management plan in
December as a result of new information received over the past few
"The new information required us to revamp the
management plan to ensure we have the best possible conservation
measures in place for the Miami blue's survival," said Dr. Elsa
Haubold, leader of the FWC's Species Conservation Section.
"We are dedicated to giving this species the very best chance not
only to survive, but also to thrive."
Once, this thumbnail-sized butterfly fluttered as
far north as Hillsborough County on the Gulf Coast and Volusia
County on the Atlantic Coast. Suspected culprits, such as habitat
degradation, fragmentation and loss, and pesticide and herbicide
spraying, relegated the Miami blue to the Keys. After the
devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, scientists believed the
butterfly was gone forever.
Much excitement accompanied the discovery of a
small colony of 50 Miami blue butterflies in Bahia Honda State Park
in the Keys in 1999. The FWC listed the species as endangered in
2002 in an emergency action after the North American Butterfly
Association petitioned the agency. The FWC developed a management
plan in 2003 to ensure a stable or increasing population to a level
not requiring the endangered designation. Again, scientists were
encouraged by the discovery of another population of blues in the
Key West National Wildlife Refuge in 2006. A volunteer, on a walk
with a refuge biologist, noticed the population.
The FWC concentrated its efforts in conjunction
with several partners, such as the University of Florida, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection and the Imperiled Butterfly Working Group, to monitor
existing populations and research the possibility of raising the
butterfly in captivity and then releasing it into the wild. Since
2003, there have been inroads and some setbacks, but the work
The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity
at the University of Florida, with funding from the FWC, the
Wildlife Foundation of Florida and other sources, has been
successful in breeding the Miami blue in captivity. However,
scientists have been disappointed when they released captive-bred
butterflies into the wild because, so far, they have been unable to
After a period of public comment this past spring,
the revised management plan included objectives for not only
maintaining the two known existing populations but also
establishing another 13 self-sustaining populations in Monroe and
"We are confident when we attain these objectives
that the Miami blue's population will have increased," Haubold
said, "and be better connected within their historic range, which
will lead to the ultimate goal of creating a population of Miami
blue butterflies that is viable and sustainable."