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NWP: Fern Ridge Lake and TNC partner to protect Fenders blue butterfly

Fender’s blue butterfly
Campfire volunteer turtle wranglers

Lake: Fern Ridge Lake, OR

Partners: USACE; The Nature Conservancy; Bureau of Land Management, Oregon; City of Eugene, Oregon; Oregon State University

Corps POC: Kat Beal, Wildlife Biologist

Story: Very special plants and animals living at Fern Ridge Lake in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon need innovative management techniques to survive. When vast grasslands are lost, many living creatures are affected. The endangered Fender’s blue butterfly will only lay its eggs on the threatened Kincaid’s lupine plant – both inhabitants of prairies that have been reduced to less than one tenth of 1 percent of their historical acreage. The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management, City of Eugene, Oregon State University, and the Corps are helping them recover by preserving the grasslands they need to thrive. Mowing to reduce woody plants, and a class project in which student volunteers collect and plant lupine seeds have increased the butterfly numbers fivefold in 4 years. Help is also extended to rare Western pond turtles at Fern Ridge who receive a "head start" via nest protection and captive rearing of newly hatched turtles before releasing them to the wild. As a result, survival of young turtles has increased from 5 percent to over 70 percent in 9 years. Another new visitor to the lake is the Mexican free-tailed bat. The bats have decided that the Lookout Point Dam structure provides a secure home. Their presence at the lake is the first documented sighting for this species in the Willamette Valley, and is the northern-most reporting species sighting as well.

What our partners are saying: "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has taken an aggressively proactive approach to improve the population status of sensitive species at Fern Ridge Lake. Western pond turtles, purple martins, Fender’s blue butterfly, and Mexican free-tailed bats are some of the rare species that have benefited. Widespread use of this type of proactive approach would go a long ways towards preventing future endangered species conflicts. The efforts of Corps staff at Fern Ridge Lake serve as a model for all agencies and land managers to follow." - Bill Castillo, District Wildlife Biologist, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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