Photo: Shawn Woods
A swath of 179 acres now permanently protects habitat for the federally endangered Fender’s blue butterfly and its host plant, the federally threatened Kincaid’s lupine. Adjacent to Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Smithfield Oaks contains about 10 percent of the entire Fender’s population in the greater Baskett Butte area.
Hillsides of nearly pure oak stands of varying density dotted with upland prairie openings dominate the property. These prairie openings provide habitat for the small butterfly and Kincaid’s lupine, the butterfly’s most frequently used larval host plant.
“With native prairie declines in the Willamette Valley, Smithfield Oaks is an important win for conservation of the two federally listed species. It also provides connectivity to the species’ habitat at Baskett Slough NWR,” said Laura Tesler, Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program (WWMP) coordinator.
Tesler said the butterfly’s success on the property is due to conservation partnerships over the past decade among the landowners, Polk Soil and Water Conservation District (Polk SWCD), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to restore a majority of the oak woodland and upland prairie acreage. Polk SWCD led the restoration work.
“These conservation efforts build off not only the adjacent Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge but other nearby conservation easements and acquisitions to further the restoration and recovery of many species of conservation concern,” said Chris Seal USFWS, Partners Program biologist.
Seal also said the acquisition directly supports implementing the USFWS 2010 recovery plan for Fender’s blue butterfly. Based on the butterfly population alone, the property is a regionally significant example of an oak-prairie habitat supporting threatened and endangered species.
A long-time partner in restoration efforts, the Polk SWCD thinned 41 acres of oak woodland habitat and removed a significant portion of invasive English hawthorn from this area. Polk SWCD also planted forbs and seeded areas previously covered with hawthorn. Habitat and restoration work is ongoing.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) acquired the property from the Wainwright family and conveyed the deed to Polk SWCD. The acquisition was done through the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program (WWMP) funded by the Bonneville Power Administration to mitigate fish, wildlife, and habitat impacts from construction and operation of Willamette River Basin Flood Control Projects.
Smithfield Oaks lies within the Baskett Butte Conservation Opportunity Area (COA) in the Oregon Conservation Strategy (Strategy). COAs are places where broad fish and wildlife conservation goals would best be met and focused investments increase long-term success. In addition, the property’s oak woodlands and grasslands are Strategy Habitats in the Willamette Valley used by more than 200 species of native wildlife, many of which are Strategy Species.
Willamette Valley landowners interested in conserving their property through a conservation easement or purchase can contact Tesler at 503-947-6086 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife