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Palos Verdes Blue Butterfly May Never Again Do Its Aerial Ballet

April 07, 1985|ANN JOHNSON | Times Community Correspondent

Taking issue with both Arnold and the city, Jojola of the Fish and Wildlife Service insists that the city knew about the habitat. "They were very well aware of the status of the blue butterfly and the status of the (Hesse Park) site," he said, adding that if there were questions, the city could have contacted the agency.

City officials say they do not know if citywide development actually contributed to the butterfly's demise. "We don't know that there isn't some other thing, like air quality, that caused the butterfly's disappearance," McTaggart said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service currently is investigating criminal wrongdoing in the eradication of the blue, Jojola said. Manuel Medrano, assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, refused to comment on the case but said the Endangered Species Act allows for a fine of up to $200,000 and a prison sentence of up to a year for anyone responsible for destroying a protected species.

Last year, a federal grand jury subpoenaed city documents relating to construction of the Hesse Park ball field.

Not Much Support

"Insects in general have not gotten very good treatment," Arnold lamented. "Even though (endangered insects) have all the rights of protection of the California condor, they just don't seem to get the support."

Said Mattoni, "We're really irrevocably screwing up the world ecosystem. Every time you pop a species, it's just one more index of the destruction that's being wrought."

He said that the biological diversity that contribute to the health of the planet cannot be re-established once it is gone. And he added that if the Palos Verdes blue is extinct, there will never again be an opportunity to discover what kind of immunity the species developed that allowed it to feed on as toxic a plant as locoweed. And a singularly perfect, unique organism will be lost forever.

This spring, the cabbage white and Sara orange-tip butterflies performed an aerial ballet among the wild mustard plants on the Peninsula cliffs.

But Palos Verdes blues did not dance with them. Perhaps no more performances are scheduled.

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