Washington Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Region

Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly and Streaked Horned Lark - Proposal to List Under ESA


Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (Photo: Ted Thomas, USFWS)   Streaked horned lark (Photo: David Maloney)
Photo: Ted Thomas, USFWS   Photo: David Maloney


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to extend Endangered Species Act protection to the streaked horned lark and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and their habitats.

BACKGROUND: The streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) is a ground-nesting bird found in open, sparsely-vegetated areas on Puget Sound prairies, on sandy islands in the Columbia River, along the Washington coast and in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Streaked horned larks have declined throughout their range and have been extirpated from British Columbia. Monitoring indicates that the Washington population is declining precipitously and inbreeding is occurring. Streaked horned larks nest and winter in flat, open areas with sparse low-stature vegetation and substantial areas of bare ground and are most often found at airports and on agricultural lands. The Taylor’s checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) is a subspecies of the checkerspot butterfly that requires specific larval host plants. They were historically known to occur in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Their current distribution has declined from over 80 locations range-wide to just 15 sites in Washington and three sites in Oregon. The checkerspot’s habitat is prairies, coastland grasslands and shallow soil balds, and openings within a forested matrix. Both the streaked horned lark and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly are residents of native prairies and open, sparsely vegetated areas. In Washington, native prairies are the state’s fastest-disappearing ecosystem type. Since the mid-1800s over 90 percent of Washington’s Puget Prairie habitat has been lost through conversion to human uses such as development or agriculture, or to encroachment of forest or invasive species resulting primarily from fire suppression.

PROPOSAL: The Service is proposing to list the streaked horned lark as threatened and to designate critical habitat at six locations in the Puget Sound lowlands, four sites along the Washington coast and 10 islands, one upland site on the lower Columbia River and 8 sites in the Willamette Valley for a total of 12,159 acres in Washington and Oregon. In Washington, these proposed critical habitat units include three training areas and two military airfields (at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County), two civilian airports (Olympia Airport in Thurston County and Sanderson Field in Mason County), coastal beaches on Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, state, private, and tribal lands in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties and three islands in Wahkiakum and Cowlitz Counties on the Washington side of the Columbia River. In Oregon, proposed critical habitat units include 5 civilian airports (Portland International Airport and regional airports in McMinnville, Salem, Eugene and Corvallis), three National Wildlife Refuges and one private prairie habitat restoration site.

4(D) RULE – SPECIAL RULE: The Service believes that regular mowing and maintenance at airports and many agricultural activities benefit the streaked horned lark by providing the open habitat and low vegetation structure needed by the bird. Thus, we are proposing to promulgate a 4(d) rule that would remove the take prohibitions for specific activities associated with airport maintenance and operation, and certain agricultural activities. The exemption means anyone engaged in those permitted activities would not be held responsible if the activities harm individuals if the species become listed.

The proposal will be open for public comment for 60 days ending December 10, 2012. Please see the proposal to see how comments may be provided to the Service. The Service may take up to 1 year following the date of the proposal to make a final determination on the status of the species and their habitats.

News release - Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (pdf)
News release - Streaked horned lark (pdf)
Federal Register - Proposed Rule (pdf) (14.8M)
Literature Cited (pdf)
Informational Memo (pdf)
Questions and Answers (pdf)
Proposed Critical Habitat GIS shapefiles and KMZ data - Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (.zip)
Proposed Critical habitat UTM coordinates - Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (pdf)
Proposed Critical Habitat GIS shapefiles and KMZ data - Streaked horned lark (.zip)
Proposed Critical habitat UTM coordinates - Streaked horned lark (pdf)


Critical Habitat Maps - Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly

      (All maps are in Adobe pdf format)


Critical Habitat Maps - Streaked Horned Lark

      (All maps are in Adobe pdf format)




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Last updated: June 26, 2013
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