Native Grasslands

Are characterized by low relief, mild temperature, high rainfall and fog, high water table, wind
Coastal prairie restoration is taking place at the Tarlatt Unit of the refuge/Photo Courtesy of Dr. Madeline Kalbach

Native grasslands occurred historically on the Long Beach Peninsula. Proximity to the salt spray from the ocean, mild temperatures, high rainfall, and fog have maintained the low-growing, open natural grasslands by suppressing encroaching trees and shrubs. Wind transport of sand, small mammal activity, herbivory (grazing by animals), and fire have contributed to the natural maintenance of native grassland habitat. Native grassland plants include: red fescue, tufted hairgrass, early blue violet, pearly everlasting, yarrow, California aster, dune goldenrod and dune thistle.

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 grasslands as foraging grounds. Other songbird and shorebird species use grasslands as nesting, feeding and resting locations.

Habitat loss has occurred from dune stabilization caused by the introduction and spread of non-native beachgrass that encourages rapid succession to forested habitats. The early blue violet, a host plant of the Oregon silverspot butterfly larvae, and other native grasses and forbs, are out-competed by the introduced grasses and herbs, and shaded out by weedy shrubs and expanding shore pine forests. As coastal areas become stabilized and developed, the influence of natural processes that sustain native habitats is reduced or eliminated.


Currently there are very few of these native plant communities remaining. Where grasslands still exist they are often pastures of introduced grasses and, in wetter areas, sedges, managed as livestock rangeland, golf courses, and residential lawns. Willapa National Wildlife Refuge has an on-going habitat restoration project to create early successional, coastally influenced grassland habitat for the extirpated Oregon silverspot butterfly.

Learn more about this grassland restoration effort…

Facts About Native Grasslands

Lack trees or shrubs

Found in only a few locations along the Pacific Coast

Is the only home of the Oregon silverspot butterfly