Published October 10, 2012
Butterfles, birds found in South Sound may get endangered tagCHELSEA KROTZER; Staff writer
Species of butterflies and birds that call Thurston County prairie lands home are in the process of getting protection under the Endangered Species Act. Evidence suggests the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly is in danger of becoming extinct and that the streaked horned lark might become threatened with extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday. Both species are found in South Sound prairie lands, which make up 10 percent of the original prairie land. Less than 3 percent of what remains is considered high-quality habitat. A 60-day public-comment period about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposal starts today, and a determination will be made in October 2013, said Doug Zimmer with the Washington Fish and Wildlife office in Lacey. “What we are looking for is information from the public that will either support or refute information we have right now to think this animal may be warranted for listing,” he said. Both species have been candidates for the federal endangered species list since 2001 because of “loss or degradation of prairie ecosystem and coastal grasslands” resulting from agricultural, commercial and residential development, as well as invasive species, Zimmer said. “Butterflies are pollinators, and many plants are adapted to be pollinated by only on species of butterfly, and many pollinators are adapted to use only one species of plant,” he said. “Lose one, you lose the other, and if you lose them you don’t know what is going to happen.” Biologists have found 6,875 acres of habitat for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly in Western Washington and Oregon, Zimmer said. Of that, 26 percent is on state lands, 26 percent on federal lands, 16 on county and other lands and 22 percent on private land. The streaked horned lark is found only in Western Washington and Oregon. It nests in areas of the Willamette Valley, Puget Sound’s prairies and islands of the Columbia River, Zimmer said. In those areas, biologists have found 12,159 acres that contain habitat for the species, 21 percent of which is on state lands, 42 percent on federal lands, 26 percent on private and other lands and 2 percent on tribal lands, he added. The proposal for the lark includes an exemption for people working at airports and farms, who would not be penalized for harming the bird. The butterfly and lark were part of a group of prairie-dwelling species up for consideration, including the Mazama pocket gopher and the mardon skipper butterfly. The decision of whether to put the pocket gopher on the endangered species list was delayed 60 days. A recommendation is scheduled to be sent to the federal register in November. The mardon skipper butterfly was removed from the candidate list pending further review. In the decade it was on the candidate list, Zimmer said, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management “took significant actions” to increase the amount of habitat for the species.