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Feds will add the rare island marble, found on only one Northwest island, to the Endangered Species list.

PHOTO BY ROBERT MICHAEL PYLE, COURTESY OF XERCES SOCIETY - The island marble butterfly, found only on San Juan Island, will get federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday, April 11, that the island marble butterfly warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The ruling is a victory for Portland-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which first submitted a petition seeking federal protection for the rare butterfly more than 15 years ago.

The island marble, found only on San Juan Island in Washington, is among the most imperiled animals in the world, according to Xerces. Fewer than 200 adults were observed during 2017 surveys and its habitat faces continued threats.

"We are happy that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken this positive step to protect this butterfly under the Endangered Species Act," said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, in a news release. "After years of delay, the service must move quickly to implement conservation measures to reverse declines."

The butterfly once lived on Vancouver and Gabriola islands in British Columbia, as well as Lopez Island in Washington, but is no longer found outside of San Juan Island.

Xerces petitioned the fish and wildlife service to protect island marble butterflies in 2002, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the San Juans and the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. Xerces filed another petition in 2012.

"The island marble's extremely small population size, isolation and restricted distribution place a huge question mark over its survival," said Sarina Jepsen, Endangered Species Program director with the Xerces Society. "Endangered Species Act protection is this butterfly's only real hope."

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