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South Bay Digest

Rancho P.V. : Butterfly Ruling Appealed

July 16, 1987

The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles has appealed U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real's dismissal of a criminal charge that the city eradicated an endangered butterfly when it built a baseball field, plowing under locoweed that the butterfly fed on. Real held that the Endangered Species Act, on which the federal charge was based, does not apply to cities.

Rancho Palos Verdes was the first public agency charged under the act, which makes it a crime to destroy habitats of endangered species protected under the act.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Manuel Medrano, in announcing the appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, said there is case law to refute Real's decision, which held that the law applies to officers of government entities, but not to the entities themselves. Medrano said the appeals court is not expected to rule until the end of the year.

City officials, who hailed Real's decision in May, criticized the appeal this week, saying that the federal government was at fault for not responding to city requests for help in identifying habitat locations of the Palos Verdes blue butterfly.

"The feds have the expertise and they should have been in there protecting the butterfly," said Councilman John McTaggart. "It was not a city obligation in the first place."

Councilman Robert Ryan called the appeal a waste of city and federal money.

The small silver-blue butterfly, found only on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was first discovered in 1977 and has not been seen for four years. The city contends that it vanished from several habitats but that the city has been singled out because of the Hesse Park baseball field.

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