Feds sued over butterfly protections

The federal government is fending off a lawsuit over monarch butterflies.

A group of animal rights activists argues the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) should add the monarch butterfly to the endangered species list.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety jointly filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court, calling on the agency to take steps to protect monarch butterflies from extinction.

“Protecting monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act is essential to their survival, and further agency delay is unlawful and irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety.

The future of the monarch butterfly is “threatened” by a 90 percent population decline over the last two decades, the animals rights activists claim. During this time, monarchs’ habitat has declined by more 165 million acres.

"The butterfly’s dramatic decline has been driven in large part by the widespread planting of genetically-engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born,” the activists wrote.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety originally petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate monarch butterflies as a threatened species in August 2014.

A few months later, the FWS began a review of the monarch butterfly’s status, but the agency has yet to issue a decision in the case.

The animal rights activists are asking the U.S. District Court for Arizona to impose a deadline for the FWS to make a decision. 

“The threats the monarch is facing are so large in scale that the butterfly needs the effective protection of the Endangered Species Act if we’re really serious about saving this amazing migratory wonder for future generations,” said Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.