CLOUDCROFT, N.M. (KRQE) – Nine areas of New Mexico have been proposed as possible critical habitat sites for the endangered Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. The proposal for using the combined 1,637 acres was made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday.

The proposed areas are 1,094 acres in the Lincoln National Forest, 521 acres of private land, and 22 acres owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, species with protected critical habitats are almost twice as likely to recover as a species.

They say only 23 butterflies were found in the Sacramento Mountains in 2021 as most of their habitat has been degraded by grazing, development, and motorized recreation. “These beautiful and irreplaceable butterflies are barely clinging to existence because of bad decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Michael Robinson, senior conservation advocate at the Center. “I’m so glad they’re finally getting protection for their habitat. I hope it’s not too late.”