Feds help rescue endangered butterfly species

Money will protect Yamhill County habitat for Fender’s blue

By: Steve Law, Portland Tribune
August 30, 2011

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is coming to the rescue of the Fender’s Blue butterfly, an endangered species once thought to be extinct.

The federal agency, which administers the Endangered Species Act, provided two grants totalling $767,000 to protect the butterfly’s habitat in Yamhill County. One grant provides $500,000 to acquire a permanent conservation easement on 284.6 acres of habitat in the Mount Richmond Conservation Opportunity Area, to benefit the Fender’s blue butterfly and the flower where it spends much of its life, the Kincaid’s lupine. The easement also will protect the Nelson’s checkermallow.

Another grant for $267,000 will be used to secure the 48-acre Pugh property and manage it as an addition to the 272-acre Yamhill Oaks Preserve. The property supports habitat for six federally listed species, including the Fender’s blue butterfly, Kincaid’s lupine, golden paintbrush, Willamette daisy, Bradshaw’s lomatium, Nelson’s checkermallow, and an additional 19 at-risk or species of concern.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, based in Southeast Portland, and Tucson’s Center for Biological Diversity had filed notice of intent to sue Yamhill County in November under the Endangered Species Act, 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 said that county roadside maintenance work was killing 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 thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in 1989. Nearly all of its native habitat in the Willamette Valley has been lost to development and other forces.

Yamhill County defused a potential legal showdown with environmental groups in March, when it 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.

Now the federal agency is providing funds to permanently protect the butterfly’s habitat.

“Ensuring the survival of imperiled species depends on long-term partnerships and voluntary landowner participation,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “The vital funding provided by these grants empowers landowners and communities to safeguard habitat for threatened and endangered species and foster conservation stewardship efforts for future generations.”

Read the article in Portland Tribune