U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Federal Protection for the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly and its Habitat

On October 11, 2012, in response to a petition from the Xerces Society and partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori) as an endangered species and designate critical habitat. This butterfly’s native prairie habitat is one of the rarest ecosystems in the U.S., with 90 to 95 percent of it lost over the past 150 years.

Primary threats to Taylor’s checkerspot are loss, conversion, and degradation of habitat particularly due to agricultural and urban development, successional changes to grassland habitat, and the spread of invasive plants. Populations of this butterfly have declined precipitously over the past decades; an endangered species listing will protect it and the critical habitats it calls home in the Pacific Northwest.

The proposal includes setting aside approximately 6,875 acres of land as designated habitat in Washington and Oregon. This butterfly occupies just two locations in Oregon and eleven in Washington, on both public and private land.

The Xerces Society has been engaged in conservation of this species for over ten years. We completed an initial assessment of the status of the species that ultimately led to petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But we did not wait for the agency to respond before working to conserve habitat for the species. Xerces staff worked with lepidopterist Dana Ross to do initial surveys of this species in Oregon. These surveys led to the discovery of an important population on land owned by Benton County and managed by the county’s Natural Areas and Parks Department.

Xerces worked to ensure the long-term security of Oregon’s other population of Taylor’s checkerspot, also in Benton County. This was mainly on private land, but the butterflies used an adjacent power line right-of-way as well. A memorandum of agreement (MOU) was established with the private landowner to protect the butterflies and allow the county parks department to control invasive species. Additionally, we worked with the Bonneville Power Administration to develop an MOU to detail management of habitat on the power line right-of-way.

We have made significant steps toward our goal of conserving this butterfly, but we will continue to work with partners, as well as, advocate for full recovery of this species.

For more information on this species, read more at: Butterflies aren’t free
To watch an Oregon Public Broadcasting special on work to conserve this species go to: http://www.opb.org/programs/ofg/segments/view/1566