For Immediate Release, November 8, 2010
Lawsuit Launched Against Yamhill County for Harming Endangered
Fender’s Blue Butterfly
Members of Fender Family, Yamhill County Residents Join Lawsuit
PORTLAND, Ore.— The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Yamhill Watershed Stewardship Fund, Center for Biological Diversity and citizens sent a notice of their intent to sue to Yamhill County today over the county’s repeated violations of the Endangered Species Act. Since 2001, repeated incidents have been documented where the county’s roadside-maintenance activities have killed endangered Fender’s blue butterflies and the imperiled Kincaid’s lupine and Willamette daisy wildflowers.
“It is time for Yamhill County to do the right thing. The county is violating the law. They had a chance to get federal money to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for Fender’s blue butterfly but instead turned it down, so it has come to this,” said Patricia Farrell of the Yamhill Watershed Stewardship Fund. “We hope that the county will begin work immediately to remedy this situation.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has met with Yamhill County commissioners on five different occasions to express the agency’s concern over the county’s Endangered Species Act violations. Fender’s blue butterflies are killed during routine roadside maintenance when roadsides with Kincaid’s lupine are mowed, graded, leveled or treated with herbicides. Because it has not prepared a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Fender’s blue butterfly, Yamhill County is liable for harming or killing the species during its roadside-maintenance activities. In fact, the county recently refused to accept a $391,000 grant offered by Fish and Wildlife to prepare a Habitat Conservation Plan for the butterfly.
The citizens who joined the notice of intent to sue include the family members of the late Kenneth Fender, after whom the Fender’s blue butterfly was named. “My father, Kenneth Fender, first discovered the Fender’s blue butterfly in the 1930’s, but died believing it was extinct,” said Laura McMasters. “My mother, brother and I feel very strongly that this rare gem of a butterfly cannot be lost again.”
Once thought to be extinct, Fender’s blue butterfly was rediscovered in 1989, two years after Kenneth Fender died. This fragile blue butterfly formerly thrived in the upland prairies of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. However, during the past 140 years an estimated 99 percent of this native prairie has been turned into farmland or otherwise developed, leading to the imperilment of the insect, which was granted formal protection as an endangered species in 2000.
The Kincaid’s lupine — a wildflower listed as a threatened species — is the primary food plant of Fender’s blue caterpillars and thus critical to the butterfly’s survival.
Though endangered, Fender’s blue butterfly is still persisting in a few areas in the Willamette Valley, including some roadside edges and parks in Yamhill County.
“Yamhill County is fully aware that it is harming these highly endangered species, but has refused to take corrective action,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With the loss of its Willamette prairie home, the beautiful Fender’s blue butterfly has become increasingly rare and can’t withstand careless action on the part of Yamhill County and others.”
Unless the county agrees to take corrective action in the next 60 days, the coalition of conservation groups and citizens will file a lawsuit to enforce the Endangered Species Act.
For more information about the butterfly, visit http://www.xerces.org/fenders-blue/.