Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
The Karner Blue Butterfly and Frosted Elfin Given Protected Room to Flourish
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and National Grid Agree to Conservation Easement

December 18, 2014

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The tiny but elegant Karner blue butterfly, an endangered species whose population has been improving in New York State. Credit: USFWS
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Queensbury, N.Y. – In a twist of fate more suited to one of Nabokov’s (the mid-20th century Russian novelist) characters, the insect that he, as an amateur lepidopterist, first discovered, identified and named is coming back from the brink of extinction. 

The Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) is named for its coloring and initial discovery at the unique inland pine barrens ecosystem (now known as the Albany Pine Bush) located between Albany and Schenectady. The males are silvery or dark blue with narrow black margins and the females are a greyish brown to blue on the topside, with irregular bands of orange crescents inside the narrow black border.

Conservation efforts throughout the Karner blue’s habitat across the country have ramped up during the past couple of decades, with Northeastern New York leading the way.

National Grid is providing permanent access to five acres in Queensbury, in Warren County, for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to protect and manage for the federally and state-listed endangered Karner blue and the state-listed threatened frosted elfin butterfly (Callophrys irus).

“Restoring habitat for the Karner blue and frosted elfin butterflies is a priority for the recovery of these species in New York State,” said NYSDEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “The protection of this five-acre preserve is an important step in halting the decline of these species and giving them a chance to thrive in an area safe from disturbance.  DEC is happy to work with National Grid and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as partners in the stewardship of this preserve and in restoration of more habitats under National Grid’s implementation of a habitat conservation plan.”

The property is expected to support the growing and protection of populations of these butterflies by providing habitat for breeding, feeding, sheltering and range expansion. It will serve as a dedicated butterfly preserve adjacent to an existing electric transmission line right-of-way owned and operated by National Grid, near Upper Sherman Avenue.

This conservation easement is part of National Grid’s 50-year habitat conservation plan (approved in 2012 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and NYSDEC), the first such plan put forward by any utility in the Northeast. 

In addition to the conservation easement, the habitat conservation plan details other actions that will avoid and minimize the effects to these butterflies during utility activities on rights-of-way habitats identified within portions of Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Warren and Oneida counties. The plan is an example of the partnership tools provided under the Endangered Species Act and Environmental Conservation Law of the State of New York to conserve rare species while supporting energy needs.

“New York supports a major portion of the remaining Karner blue butterfly population in the eastern U.S., and National Grid’s efforts to conserve both the Karner blue and frosted elfin will help secure the future of these butterflies in the state,” said David Stilwell, supervisor for the USFWS New York Field Office. “The company’s conservation plan has enabled National Grid to not only maintain the efficiency of its operations but to also preserve these protected butterflies and their habitat.”

Karner blues are severely restricted as to where they can survive because of their limited diet.  Karner blue caterpillars feed only on the leaves while adults feed on the nectar of flowering plants of the low-growing wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) that favors open areas such as utility corridors.

“Protecting our rights-of-way in a responsible manner is critical to our ability to deliver energy safely and reliably to thousands of home and business in the region,” said Michael Sherman, National Grid’s Principal Scientist for their Environmental Department. “We also need to maintain our system in an environmentally responsible way that preserves the ecosystems that are home to species like the Karner blue and frosted elfin butterflies.”

Unauthorized access to these areas for recreational uses or dumping of lawn and other waste is prohibited and can cause damage to these sensitive habitats and pose a danger to the individual, the electric and natural gas system and endangered species and other wildlife that make their home in these corridors. 

USFWS, NYSDEC and National Grid remind everyone to respect the “No Trespassing” signs posted near power line rights-of-way and to stay clear of the areas to keep the public safe, to protect the integrity of these vital utility networks and to ensure the continued return and security of the Karner blue and frosted elfin.

About U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

About New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was created on July 1, 1970 to combine in a single agency all state programs designed to protect and enhance the environment.

Mission: "To conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being."

DEC's goal is to achieve this mission through the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives. For more information, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/

About National Grid

National Grid (LSE: NG; NYSE:NGG) is an electricity and gas company that connects consumers to energy sources through its networks. The company is at the heart of one of the greatest challenges facing our society - to create new, sustainable energy solutions for the future and developing an energy system that underpins economic prosperity in the 21st century. National Grid holds a vital position at the center of the energy system and it ‘joins everything up’.

National Grid delivers electricity to approximately 3.3 million customers in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. It manages the electricity network on Long Island under an agreement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), and owns over 4,000 megawatts of contracted electricity generation, providing power to over one million LIPA customers. It is the largest distributor of natural gas in northeastern U.S., serving approximately 3.4 million customers in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

For more information please visit our website: www.nationalgridus.com

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View or download video clips of the Karner blue butterfly

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.