Guam – There is an endangered butterfly that is rapidly vanishing from the island of Guam. This butterfly can be found in only a few areas on island one of those areas is the Pagat area along the back road to Andersen. This is the same area where the marines plan on building a firing range complex.
The Marianas 8-spot butterfly is extremely rare. In fact UOG Entomologist Dr. Aubrey Moore says that it has recently been sighted only three times during the last year and two of those sightings were in Pagat. Moore is concerned that the military’s plans to use Pagat as a firing range complex could threaten this endangered butterfly further.”This butterfly lives in the limestone forest which is kind of a unique habitat for the Marianas islands and it feeds on native plants and in most places on guam those native plants are really in danger for a couple of reasons one reason is we have really high populations of deer and those deer prefer to eat the native plants,” explained Dr. Moore.
The UOG Etymologist is concerned that closing off Pagat to the public will allow the deer to flourish and therefore wipe out the native plants that the 8-spot butterfly feed on. “When you fence off an area and you don’t allow human hunters there the populations of deer go way up in fact up on Andersen air force base we have some of the highest population densities of deer than any other place in the world,” explained Dr. Moore.
DOD is well aware of the threats to the 8-spot butterfly so what are it’s plans for mitigation? Dr, Moore said, “They suggested they would do more surveys which is useful because it will tell us where the population is and if it’s going up or down but that isn’t really mitigation in it’s own right.”
In 2008 DOD conducted environmental surveys of the Pagat area and a botanist working with them found the 8-spotted butterfly there and reported it. This was part of a natural resources survey report a report that Moore says has never been made available despite being referenced in the EIS. “It was referred to 59 times in the DEIS and I’ve asked for it on a couple of occasions and I’ve always been told that it’s not quite ready yet this is actually illegal by referring to something 59 times your actually including it by reference in the document and according to NEPA rules it has to be made public,” said Dr. Moore.
While some might think that this is a lot of fuss made over a little butterfly Dr. Moore says that it’s an important part of the ecosystem that helps pollinate the flowers of native plants. “The 8-spot butterfly is just the tip of the iceberg it’s just an indicator that our native forests are very sick mainly in response to the native species that have come in,” said Dr. Moore.
Moore points out that invasive species are already difficult for the island to screen out which is why he is extremely concerned that the military buildup could bring with it a huge influx of invasive species.