The Mardon skipper butterfly (Polites mardon) is a small, tawny-orange butterfly. It once ranged across the extensive fescue-dominated grasslands of Washington, Oregon, and northwest California. Today, just four small, geographically isolated areas populations remain in south Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains in southern Washington, the Siskiyou Mountains in southern Oregon, and coastal northern California. All of the sites are small, with the majority supporting less than 50 individuals. It has recently been extirpated from four sites in south Puget Sound and one in the southern Washington Cascades.

The Mardon skipper is threatened by habitat loss and spaying of insecticides. Grasslands covered hundreds of thousands of acres of the Puget Sound basin lowlands prior to European settlement. Today, less than 3% of that original landscape remains and much of it is degraded. The upland prairie in the Willamette Valley have been hit even harder. Only one-tenth of one percent of this important habitat remains. The vast majority of this grassland habitat was lost during the past 150 years because of agricultural and urban development, livestock grazing, fire suppression, forest encroachment, and invasion by native and non-native plants.

On December 10, 2002 the Center For Biological Diversity, Xerces Society, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Friends of the San Juan's, and Northwest Ecosystem Alliance filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Mardon skipper under the Endangered Species Act. Listing under the ESA will require protection of specific grasslands, prairies, and woodlands as "critical habitat" for the mardon and the development of federal recovery plan. It will ensure that federal agencies act to save the mardon while encouraging state and private interests to participate as well.

graphic Andrew Rodman ©2002
May 23, 2003
Go back