Native Grassland Conservation

Early blue violets grown at the Oregon Zoo arrive at the refuge ready to be planted as part of native grassland conservation efforts/Photo Courtesy of Dr. Madeline Kalbach

Coastal prairie and native grassland habitats have become rare throughout the Pacific Northwest. Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is working closely with a diversity of partners to increase these habitats and the wildlife associated with them.

A Winged Messenger 

The federally threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly previously inhabited coastal habitat from northern California to southern Washington. It is no longer found in Washington State and lives only on a few sites in California and Oregon. These rare butterflies were last documented on the Long Beach Peninsula in 1990 and are a harbinger of the potential fate for other grassland dependent species.

Habitat changes due to invasion by exotic species, natural succession, fire suppression, and land development have affected the butterfly's survival, along with other species which utilize grassland habitat. Large mammals, such as Roosevelt elk, black-tail deer, black bear, and coyote, use grasslands as foraging areas and/or travel routes to adjacent lands. Smaller mammals, such as voles and mice, thrive in grasslands. These smaller mammals serve as prey for raptors such as red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, American kestrels, and various species of owls, all of which use open grasslands as hunting grounds. Songbird and shorebird species use grasslands to rest, nest and feed. 

Region-wide Effort 

In an effort to recover the Oregon silverspot butterfly, and benefit a variety of grassland-dependent species, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is part of a larger network of agencies, organizations, and individuals working to restore native grassland habitat. Locally, the Refuge, along with its partners, has begun work to establish sustainable populations of the larval host plant (Early blue violet, Viola adunca) and adult nectaring plants at several locations on the Long Beach Peninsula, including a research plot at the Tarlatt Unit of the Refuge. Partners play a key role in this recovery effort, including research and advisory functions, cultivation of plants and butterfies, site testing, planting and maintenance, survey, educational outreach, and additional restoration sites. Learn more about the partners:

Watch a video about grassland conservation and recovery of the Oregon silverspot butterfly...

A Future Filled with the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly?   

Grassland restoration projects are helping to create habitat with delisting of the Oregon silverspoy butterfly as the ultimate goal. These restored areas will be managed long-term to maintain native, early successional grassland communities. Invasive, non-native plants are being controlled and experiments are taking place at the refuge to determine the most successful and cost effective way to complete such restoration efforts. Creation of an appropriate number of acres of high-quality habitat would allow reintroduction of the Oregon silverspot butterfly to occur on the Refuge. Maintaining partnerships is critically important to build and maintain a successful long lasting effort for the reintroduction of this species to Washington State.

Discover how you can get involved in this conservation effort...