Heidi Holman, NHFG: 603-271-3018
Scott Fogg, Praxair Surface Technologies/TAFA: 603-223-2156
Jane Vachon, NHFG: 603-271- 3211
August 16, 2013
Karner Blue Butterfly Continues towards Recovery with Boost from Local Business
Praxair employees pitch in to create habitat for N.H.'s endangered Karner blue butterfly in a 2013 community engagement project. MEDIA: for hi-res image, click on photos.
CONCORD, N.H. – The warm, humid weather conditions this summer were excellent for New Hampshire’s State Butterfly. The number of Karner blue butterflies marked in the wild surpassed the previous high number observed by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program in 2010!
In addition to the great weather, the Karner blues recovery effort got another boost this summer as employees of a local company rolled up their sleeves to help create habitat for the tiny, bright-blue butterflies. N.H. Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are collaborating with Praxair Surface Technologies/TAFA to increase the amount of habitat available for the growing population. The power line right-of-way located on the Praxair property in Concord, N.H., was the last known location of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lycaedies melissa samuelis) in the Northeast.
Each year, the company and its employees select a local community engagement project in support of the community in which they work. This includes donation of materials, technical capability, manpower, and funds. This year, employees at the Concord facility assisted with securing a grant from the Praxair Foundation to support efforts to restore habitat on 10-15 acres of their land parcel, including a timber harvest that occurred this spring. Following the harvest, over 70 employees spent a morning removing and stacking brush and planting wild blue lupine and nectar plants, which provide habitat for the butterflies. They transplanted over 600 plants in a matter of hours, doubling the amount of existing habitat at the site.
“The work that was completed by the staff of Praxair/TAFA would have taken a week or more for our limited staff to complete,” said John Kanter, Coordinator of the Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program.
The long-term goal of the Praxair restoration project is to increase the few butterflies living on the parcel to a robust population of 250-500 adults in the next few years.
The Praxair funding also paid for supplies for students in Concord schools as part of the "Kids for Karners" program, in which students grow wild blue lupine plants in the classroom for planting on the pine barrens. Students from the Seacoast School of Technology in Exeter and Weare Elementary school also helped by growing wild lupine for the company’s employees to plant.
The comeback of New Hampshire's State Butterfly has been a remarkable success story. Surveys from 1983 estimated the Karner blue butterfly population to be over 3,000 individuals in the Concord area; by 1988, the population had dwindled to an estimated 600-700 butterflies; by 1994, there were fewer than 100 Karners left.
Karner blues had declined because of the loss of their primary habitat – patches of wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis), which is the only food source for the developing caterpillars. Habitat also disappeared as the pine barrens ecosystem developed into a mature forest because of fire suppression. As the forest canopy matured, any remaining patches of lupine were eventually shaded out. Periodic mowing under the power line corridor provided long-term maintenance of lupine, creating the final stronghold for the species. A population estimate has not been completed, but this summer's brood is expected to have come the closest to reaching the federal recovery goal of 3,000 Karner blues in New Hampshire.
This year (2013) New Hampshire Fish and Game's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program is celebrating 25 years of success conserving rare wildlife in the Granite State. The program is the steward for the state's nongame wildlife – species not hunted, fished or trapped. Through wildlife monitoring and management, plus outreach and education, the Nongame Program works to protect over 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as thousands of insects and other invertebrates. The program works in cooperation with other New Hampshire agencies and organizations to develop effective conservation strategies to protect and enhance vital areas of habitat and wildlife.
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