Service Partners Named “Recovery Champions” for Work with Wenatchee Mountains Checker-mallow

A diverse array of scientists, volunteers, and private landowners working to recover an endangered plant in central Washington are among the recipients of the 2022 Recovery Champion awards from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 

The combined efforts of these partners have advanced the understanding and recovery of Wenatchee Mountains checker-mallow, a narrow-range endemic plant that grows only in a few select wet meadows of Chelan County. 

The prestigious Recovery Champion awards are given annually to outstanding agency staff or partners whose work is promoting the recovery of endangered or threatened species. When Wenatchee Mountains checker-mallow was first listed as endangered in 1999, there were an estimated 3,300 plants in existence. As a result of these partners’ surveys, studies of the plant’s reproduction, outplanting and direct seeding, and research into management best practices, it is estimated that there are now over 40,000 individuals. 

Intensive long-term census efforts for the largest population of the plant, at Camas Meadows Natural Area Preserve, managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WA DNR), have created a more complete picture of population trends and size. WA DNR staff have worked to restore important hydrologic functionality and improve habitat at this critical site through thinning and prescribed burning.  

Nearby, the stewardship of Brad and Kathy Schmidt, private landowners at Mountain Home Lodge, has conserved the second largest population and aided research efforts from the Service and the University of Washington’s Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program (UW Rare Care). 

Research by both UW Rare Care and Quamash EcoResearch has led to an improved understanding of threats and management tools for the species.  A collaborative effort to identify suitable sites for outplantings was also conducted by UW Rare Care, WA DNR, Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Chelan-Douglas Land Trust staff also managed species outplantings and continue to provide valuable monitoring data. The collective knowledge generated by all of these partners is now fueling new reintroductions and accelerating recovery actions.

Thanks to the efforts of these Service partners, the future of this rare species is looking brighter. 

Award recipients include: 

Wendy Gibble 
Program Manager, University of Washington Rare Plant Care & Conservation 

Walter Fertig 
Collections Manager, Marion Ownbey Herbarium at Washington State University  

David Wilderman 
Natural Areas Program Ecologist, Washington Department of Natural Resources 

Keyna Bugner 
Natural Areas Manager, Washington Department of Natural Resources 

Joe Arnett 
Rare Plant Botanist, Washington Department of Natural Resources (Retired) 

Brigitte Ranne 
Forest Invasive Plant Program Manager and Acting Forest Botanist, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest 

Brad and Kathy Schmidt 
Owners, Mountain Home Lodge 

Susan Waters 
Senior Research Ecologist, Quamash EcoResearch 

Susan Ballinger 
Conservation Fellow, Chelan-Douglas Land Trust 

See a full list of 2022 Recovery Champions from across the country.

Learn more about monitoring efforts for this rare plant: