Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
ARCATA FWO: Volunteers Participate in 3rd Annual Scotch Broom Bash in Del Norte County, Calif.
California-Nevada Offices , March 19, 2016
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Look at those delicious Oregon silverspot cookies!
Look at those delicious Oregon silverspot cookies! - Photo Credit: Chris Damiani
Oregon silverspot butterfly.
Oregon silverspot butterfly. - Photo Credit: Chris Damiani
Scotch Broom Bash volunteers.
Scotch Broom Bash volunteers. - Photo Credit: Chris Damiani

By Liisa Schmoele

Weed wrenches. Handsaws. Enthusiasm. Cookies and potato salad. These are some of the tools (and fuel) that volunteers brought with them to Pacific Shores Subdivision on Saturday, March 19, to slow the encroachment of Scotch broom within the coastal prairie ecosystem at Lake Earl Wildlife Area and Tolowa Dunes State Park.

This ecosystem is a special place for many reasons, one of them being that it is the only home for the Oregon silverspot butterfly in California; a threatened subspecies. Once found along the salt spray meadows and stabilized sand dunes in parts of Washington, Oregon, and northern California, habitat loss has negatively affected the silverspot’s distribution and numbers.

Oregon silverspot butterflies are dependent on the early blue violet for survival; it is the only plant that females will lay their eggs on and is the primary source of food for its developing larvae.

The invasive plant, Scotch broom, affects the Oregon silverspot in a few ways: it shades out the violet (who prefers open habitats), reducing plant numbers; changes soil chemistry to give other invaders the edge over native plant species; and crowds out native flower species that serve as nectar sources for adult butterflies.

Enter the Scotch Broom Bash volunteers. On a slightly rainy, foggy Saturday, over 30 volunteers of all ages from the Sequoia Park Zoo, Tolowa Dune Stewards, Humboldt State University, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service all converged in Del Norte County to help restore one of the natural areas of our North Coast community, and perhaps save these beautiful pollinators from extinction.

This year, volunteers wrenched and sawed down Scotch broom from 2.8 acres of publicly-owned land near important areas for the butterfly. That added up to 70 cubic yards of Scotch broom “waste” that filled two very large disposal bins. Combined with the removal efforts that began in 2014, volunteers have removed Scotch broom from over 11 acres of habitat for the Oregon silverspot in northern California.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of Recology Del Norte, Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, and Hambro/WSG, local vendors that donated the costs associated with the bins and disposal fees.

It just goes to show what a little collaboration, and a lot of muscle power, can get you toward getting kids and adults connected with the outdoors and with imperiled species in their area.


Liisa Schmoele is a fish and wildlife biologist in the Arcata FWO, in Arcata, Calif.

Contact Info: Liisa Schmoele, (707) 822-7201, liisa_schmoele@fws.gov
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