Agreement Reached to Ensure New Protections for Rare Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly as Nevada Ski Resort Expands
LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity and Lee Canyon reached an agreement today to allow the proposed expansion of the Lee Canyon Ski Area to move forward with significant new protections in place for the endangered Mount Charleston blue butterfly.
Today’s agreement comes after nearly five years of intervention by the Center to protect the rare native butterfly’s last remaining habitat.
The agreement ensures new protective measures for the butterflies in the design, layout and operation of proposed mountain biking trails and a mountain coaster. Lee Canyon will also provide $250,000 in funding to researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to conduct research on the butterfly’s biology, habitat and conservation.
“We’re pleased that we’ve reached an agreement that both protects these butterflies and funds research to put them on the path to recovery,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “This agreement shows that conservation groups and private parties can work together to ensure recreation doesn’t come at the cost of losing imperiled species.”
The rare Mount Charleston blue butterfly lives in just a handful of alpine meadows on Mount Charleston above Las Vegas. The species was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2013. One of its population strongholds is on the ski runs at the Lee Canyon Ski Area.
The Center originally sued the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2020 for their approval of the ski resort expansion. The Center’s lawsuit cited concerns about the effect the mountain bike trails would have on the butterfly’s critical habitat.
Lee Canyon and the Center consulted with the local authority on the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, UNLV’s Dan Thompson, Ph.D., who helped the parties come up with design solutions that will prevent excessive harm to current or future butterfly populations.
“Activists and scientists have fought for years to prevent the extinction of the Mount Charleston blue butterfly,” said Donnelly. “This agreement gives these special little butterflies the best possible chance of recovery. We hope it sparks further Forest Service action to limit the threats recreational use poses to Mount Charleston.”