Checkerspot Butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori) is
a medium-sized, colorfully checkered butterfly with a wingspan
of less than 2.25 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 nearly disappeared, so has Taylor's checkerspot:
only four populations remain today, and only one of them has
over 50 individuals.
checkerspot's decline is continuous and rapid. A site in Washington
with almost 7,000 individuals was lost in 1997. It was extirpated
from British Columbia in 2000. A single population remains
in the Willamette Valley near Corvallis, OR. Three populations
occur in the southern Puget Sound are on Fort Lewis and around
the Bald Hills.
checkerspot is primarily threatened by habitat loss and degradation.
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, fire suppression and
forest encroachment, livestock grazing, and invasion by native
and non-native plants. In addition, pesticides and recreational
activities pose a direct threat to the butterflies themselves.
December 10, 2002 the Center for Biological Diversity, Xerces
Society, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Friends of the
San Juans, and the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance filed a petition
with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Taylor's
checkerspot under the Endangered Species Act. Listing under
the ESA will require protection of specific grasslands, prairies,
and woodlands as "critical habitat" for the checkerspot and
the development of federal recovery plan. It will ensure that
federal agencies act to save the checkerspot while encouraging
state and private interests to participate as well.