Yamhill County takes steps to protect threatened butterfly

By: Steve Law, The Portland Tribune
March 14, 2011

Yamhill County has defused a potential legal showdown with environmental groups over the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly.

The county approved a $98,000 consulting contract with Cardno Entrix to prepare a habitat conservation plan, which lays out how the county will help protect the rare butterfly.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, based in Southeast Portland, and Tucson’s Center for Biological Diversity had filed notice of intent to sue the county in November under the federal Endangered Species Act. That came after Yamhill County commissioners rejected a $391,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fund a habitat conservation plan, because it would have required $36,000 in county matching funds and other in-kind work.

Conservation groups and the federal wildlife service argue that county roadside maintenance work has killed off the Kincaid’s lupine, the main host plant for the butterfly, which is listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The Fender’s blue butterfly once was thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in 1989. Nearly all of its native habitat in the Willamette Valley has been lost to development and other forces.

The county has been in continuous talks with the environmental groups but reached no formal agreement, says Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society.

“We threatened to sue them and they just started to move forward,” Black says.

Now the county is “moving in the right direction,” he says.

Ironically, the county will be spending more of its own money than the earlier proposal.