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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for allegedly failing to protect 19 plant and animal species, including a butterfly currently found only in San Diego County and Baja California.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeks to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity alleges there have consistently been delays in protecting imperiled species, with it taking 12 years on average for species to receive protection during the Endangered Species Act’s 40-year history, and at least 47 species going extinct while waiting for protection.

“The Endangered Species Act is incredibly successful at saving species from extinction, but only if they’re provided its protections in the first place,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the center. “These 19 animals and plants are among hundreds waiting for action from the Biden administration. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s listing program is broken and badly in need of reform.”

Among the species the lawsuit seeks to protect is the Hermes copper butterfly — found only in San Diego County and Baja California — which has been adversely affected by urban sprawl and is threatened by climate-change driven increases in fire and drought, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The group petitioned for the butterfly to receive protection in 2004.

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