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Federal protection sought for dwindling Minnesota butterfly species

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing two Midwest butterfly species be placed under federal protection after steep population declines.

The Dakota skipper, typically found in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Canada, has disappeared from half the sites where it once lived. USFWS is proposing the butterfly be classified as a "threatened" species.

The Star Tribune says the Dakota skipper is already on Minnesota’s list of endangered butterflies.

Another species, the Poweshiek skipperling, has a more grim future. The service wants to classify the species as "endangered" now that the butterfly is gone from 90 percent of places it previously inhabited.

The Poweshiek skipperling once lived in eight states, including Minnesota, and Canada. Now, the butterfly can only found in a few native prairie remnants in Wisconsin, Michigan and Manitoba, Canada.

The Minnesota Zoo launched a program, with funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, to help save the Poweshiek skipperling.

The loss of prairie land, home to both species, is the primary reason for the decline, according to USFWS.

Minnesota Public Radio reported Minnesota once had an estimated 18 million acres of prairie. Now, less than 1 percent remains.

USFWS is trying to preserve the prairie land that's left by recommending that thousands of acres across six Midwest states be designated as critical habitat.

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