News Release

March 18, 2011

USFWS to Review ESA Status of Four Candidate Prairie Species

Media Contacts:
Doug Zimmer 360-753-4370

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating an evaluation to determine whether to list four prairie species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). All four species are currently candidates for listing under the ESA. To assist in this analysis, the Service is requesting information related to the four prairie species known to occur in Washington, Oregon and in Del Norte County, California. The agency is particularly interested in collaborating with local, regional and tribal partners to gather status information and consider potential conservation actions affecting each species.

The four species (two butterflies, a bird and a burrowing mammal) are all residents of Washington's fastest-disappearing ecosystem type, the Puget Prairie. Since the mid-1800s over 90 percent of Washington's Puget Prairie habitat has been developed or converted to agriculture.

The species are:

Mazama pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama) are most abundant on the prairies of south Puget Sound in Thurston and Pierce Counties, Washington, although subspecies are found on subalpine meadows of the northern Olympic Peninsula and in reduced numbers on lowland prairies in Mason and Clark counties. The Mazama pocket gopher lives most of its life below ground, coming to the surface to find food that is then stored in cheek pouches and carried to their burrows.

Streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) is a subspecies of the horned lark found exclusively in western Washington and Oregon. The streaked horned lark is a ground-nesting bird that finds optimum habitat in prairie or open coastal conditions.

Taylor's checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) is a subspecies of a widespread western butterfly. It requires specific host plants (native plantain or paintbrush) for its survival. Its distribution in Oregon and Washington is open prairie habitat or thin-soiled bald habitat, dominated by native grasses and forbs.

Mardon skipper (Polites mardon) is a small tawny brown butterfly that finds suitable habitat in prairie and subalpine meadow habitat from the Puget Prairies of Washington, the southern Cascades of Washington and Oregon and in meadows in the coast range of Del Norte County, California. Of the four species under consideration, the Mardon skipper is the most widely distributed.

To ensure this information gathering is comprehensive, the agency is requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding these species and their habitats. Anyone with information should send it to: Jodi Bush, Manager, Division of Listing and Recovery, USFWS, 510 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA 98503 or Jodi_Bush@fws.gov.