Xerces Society

Domestic Endangered Butterfly Species Work

Working with a coalition of scientists, the Xerces Society prepared status reviews and filed petitions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in December 2002 requesting protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) for three butterflies: the Taylor's checkerspot, the Mardon skipper, and the island marble. All three butterflies rely on the nearly extirpated native grasslands in western Washington, Oregon, and northern California for survival.

The Xerces Society is coordinating the monitoring of the only known Taylor's checkerspot population in Oregon (which contains over 90% of all of the Taylor's checkerspots known to exist). The Society is working with land trusts, Weyerhaeuser and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Service to secure vital habitat for these butterflies and in the spring and summer of 2004, will implement a search for additional populations of the Taylor's checkerspot and Mardon skipper. The Society co-sponsored a workshop on the biology and habitat needs of the Mardon skipper last summer and are coordinating dialogue among USFWS, U.S. Forest Service and university researchers in CA, OR, and WA.

The Xerces Society assisted other conservation organizations on a status review and petition for the Dakota skipper for protection under the ESA. This butterfly is restricted to remnants of tall grass prairie in the upper Midwest.

The Society is working with other conservation groups on a status review and petition for federal endangered species status for the Sand Mountain blue in Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was poised to protect this butterfly's habitat from off-road vehicle (ORV) use, but in the end did not make any of the habitat off limits to the ORVs.

Working with the Oregon Zoo, the Society helped to determine the environmental cues that trigger egg-laying of gravid Oregon silverspots.

The Xerces Society prepared the Butterfly Conservation Needs Assessment: Species Profiles for the Butterfly Conservation Initiative. In addition, we have started preparing profiles for many species of non-listed threatened butterflies. We will continue work on these profiles in 2004, including them in our red list of insect pollinators (which also includes bees and flies), as well as in future updates of the species profiles with BFCI.

International Endangered Species Work

The Xerces Society is reviewing the Canadian Draft National Recovery Strategy for the Taylor's Checkerspot and Island Marble Butterflies. The Society is also working to get U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to follow through on listing reviews for seven foreign swallowtail butterfly species as threatened or endangered under the ESA to protect these species from illegal trade. These swallowtails were originally proposed for listing in the early 1990s, but the USFWS did not complete the review. The species include the Kaiserihind, a very rare and stunning swallowtail from Thailand and Burma; Papilio esperanza, one of Mexico's rarest butterflies; and five other species from Brazil, Jamaica, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

California Monarch Program

Two main populations of monarchs exist: an eastern population east of the Rocky Mountains and a western population west of the Rocky Mountains. Most people are aware of the spectacular migration of the eastern monarchs from southern Canada to central Mexico. The western population of monarchs makes a similar migration, but winters instead at more than 300 sites along much of the California coast, from north of San Francisco to the Mexican border. To help protect monarch overwintering sites in California the Society is working to:

  • Update the California monarch overwintering site GIS database and have it easily accessible for conservationists and scientists.
  • Update the Conservation And Management Guidelines For Preserving Monarch Butterfly Migration and Overwintering Habitat In California, produced by the Xerces Society in the 1980s.
  • Get information together on monarch overwintering sites for the California Coast Commission as they update their local coastal plans.

Other Butterfly-Related Projects

Portland, Oregon Butterfly Monitoring

In the summer of 2003, the Xerces Society organized a butterfly monitoring project for greenspaces in the Portland, Oregon area. Twenty participants tracked butterfly populations on a monthly basis at seven sites and provided important data for the management and restoration of these endangered Willamette Valley grasslands.

Dewind Award

The Dewind awards are to students (undergraduate or graduate) who are engaged in research leading to a university degree related to Lepidoptera research and conservation and working or intending to work in that field.

Spring Issue of Wings

The spring 2004 issues of Wings is dedicated to butterfly conservation. Wings, the membership magazine of The Xerces Society, reaches nearly 7,000 people twice a year and has been highly acclaimed by many for bringing together accessible science with stunning photos on invertebrate conservation.