Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Lifestyles
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Army works to save butterflies whose remaining habitat includes artillery range

In this photo taken May 7, 2014, colorful flowers, including the red harsh paintbrush in the center, grow in a prairie area used for military training exercises at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., that also happens to be one of the few areas in the country where the federally listed endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly lives. The Army has been working to boost the numbers of the butterflies, in part because the presence of the insect could impact current training practices. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Enlarge Image

In this photo taken May 7, 2014, colorful flowers, including the red harsh paintbrush in the center, grow in a prairie area used for military training exercises at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., that also happens to be one of the few areas in the country where the federally listed endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly lives. The Army has been working to boost the numbers of the butterflies, in part because the presence of the insect could impact current training practices. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - An undeveloped stretch of native prairie in south Puget Sound offers one of the few habitats in the world where a two-inch colourful checkered butterfly thrives. It also happens to be the main artillery impact range for Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The Army's Stryker combat brigade and other troops regularly practice military manoeuvres and live-fire training on acres of scenic, open grassland where a small population of Taylor's checkerspot butterfly feed on nectar of native blooms, mate and lay eggs.

The butterfly's listing as a federal endangered species last fall "has the potential to cause major restrictions on training," said Jeffrey Foster, an ecologist at the military installation.

That has the Army working to boost the numbers of butterflies, once found at more than 70 sites in Puget Sound, Oregon and British Columbia but are now reduced to 14 sites. The effort mirrors others by the Army at installations around the country.

From Maryland to Louisiana to Colorado, the Army has been conserving buffer areas around bases to limit urban development, while also preserving and restoring habitat for rare species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker and the golden-cheeked warbler.

So far, the program has preserved over 200,000 acres of lands.

At JBLM, 44 miles south of Seattle, the program is helping not only the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly but also the streaked horned lark and Mazama pocket gopher.

Last October, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service concluded the Taylor's checkerspot was in danger of becoming extinct and designated nearly 2,000 acres in Clallam County, Puget Sound and Oregon's Willamette Valley as critical habitat for the creature.

The agency said it considered "military training under present conditions a threat to the short-term and long-term conservation of the Taylor's checkerspot." The eight-wheeled, armoured Stryker vehicle and soldier foot traffic can crush larvae and damage plants the butterflies rely on.

The Army has been working with the state, the Center for Natural Lands Management and others to preserve and restore habitat, both on and off the military installation, so that the butterflies could be re-introduced.

The military and its partners have committed about $35 million and protected about several thousand acres of land in and around JBLM for multiple species. It will likely take years to increase the butterfly's numbers, but those working on the effort are already seeing some success.

Taylor's checkerspot butterflies are establishing at two of three sites at JBLM and on two other sites near Olympia where they have been re-introduced.

"We're in a much better position now than were five years ago," said Mary Linders, a conservation biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Army is working with the Center for Natural Lands Management, a non-profit group that manages lands that are purchased, works with partners who raise the butterflies in captivity, propagates native prairie plants and prepares sites where the checkerspots can be re-introduced.

Hannah Anderson, rare species program manager at CNLM, said the military's program helped "protect lands off the base, restore them to high quality and bring the animals there so we could protect these animals but also the military's ability to train."

On a recent day, Linders and others walked a section of prairie at the artillery impact area to count adult butterflies and monitor the timing of the flight season.

It is prime season for the butterflies to mate, and their orange and white checkered wings flutter as they move from one plant to another. They fly in groups and dip into the centre of Puget balsamroot, bright sunflower-like plants that are in full bloom.

Nearby, pock-marked bunkers bear evidence of artillery fire. White stakes mark areas where vehicles must stay on the road and where soldiers and others are prohibited from digging or camping. Linders points out a cluster of eggs at the base of a red harsh paintbrush.

"You can see lots and lots of them as we're walking through here," she said. "It's the largest population left in the checkerspot's range."

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media