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For Immediate Release, October 12, 2012

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Pacific Northwest Songbird, Butterfly Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protections

Nearly 20,000 Acres in Oregon, Washington Also Proposed for Protection to
Help Streaked Horned Lark, Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly

PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed Endangered Species Act protection for a bird called the streaked horned lark and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. The agency also proposed to designate 6,875 acres of protected critical habitat for the butterfly and 12,159 acres for the bird in Washington and Oregon, including for the lark at the Olympia, Portland, Salem and other municipal airports in the region. The decision is part of a major settlement made with the Center for Biological Diversity last year requiring Fish and Wildlife to speed protection decisions for 757 species across the country.

Loggerhead sea turtle
Taylor's checkerspot butterfly photo by Aaron Barna, USFWS. Photos of this and other species in the 757 agreement are available for media use.

“With today’s decision, these unique prairie species have a fighting chance,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “Very little of the original prairie grasslands that once graced the Puget Trough and Willamette Valley remain. If we can save these species, we’ll be preserving not only the last, best remnants of these beautiful native grasslands but an important part of Pacific Northwest history.”

Both species have suffered substantial declines and are now found only at a handful of scattered locations around the Puget Sound, Olympic Peninsula, Washington Coast, Columbia River and Willamette Valley. Their prairie habitats are limited to places like the Fort Lewis Military Reservation, the Olympia airport and W.L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge. The remainder of their habitat has been plowed under, paved or converted to forest or nonnative plants. 

“The streaked horned lark and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly are beautiful species that need our help to survive,” said Greenwald. “And the Endangered Species Act, which is more than 99 percent effective at saving species, is our best tool for getting the job done.”

The streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) is a small, ground-dwelling songbird with conspicuous feather tufts, or "horns," on its head. Its back is heavily streaked with black, contrasting sharply with its deeply ruddy nape and yellow underparts. Formerly a common nesting species in grasslands and prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon, it was so abundant around Puget Sound that it was considered a nuisance by turn-of-the-century golfers. The destruction of 98 percent of native grasslands on the West Coast, however, caused cataclysmic population declines. The lark is extirpated from the San Juan Islands, northern Puget Sound, Oregon’s Rogue Valley and Canada. In Washington, it currently breeds at only 10 sites, including Grays Harbor, Fort Lewis, the Olympia airport and islands in the lower Columbia River. In Oregon, the lark breeds in the Willamette Valley and lower Columbia River, including at the Portland, Salem, Corvallis, McMinville and Eugene airports. 

Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori) is a medium-size, colorfully checkered butterfly with a wingspan of about 2 inches. It formerly occurred throughout the extensive grasslands, prairies and oak woodlands of Vancouver Island, the Puget Sound basin and the Willamette Valley. As this habitat has disappeared, so has Taylor's checkerspot. The butterfly is currently known from just 11 sites in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, including sites on the Olympic Peninsula, Puget Trough and Willamette Valley. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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