BLM seeks input on tree-cutting to protect endangered butterfly

A secluded area of ​​woods and prairie southeast of Brownsville is targeted for a habitat restoration project by the Bureau of Land Management, which could include cutting down conifers in a commercial timber sale to protect its endangered butterfly population.

From now until July 13, BLM is seeking the public’s input on the proposed project, and on Friday hosted a public meeting at Brownsville City Hall, where local residents could discuss the plan and raise any concerns or questions.

The 224-acre area, known as the Oak Basin Prairies, was first designated as an Area of ​​Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in 2006, a year after the federally endangered Fender’s blue butterfly was discovered in the area – a species that exclusively lives in prairie meadows.

The butterfly is only found in the Willamette Valley, and the Oak Basin Prairies are one of three known areas with them east of Interstate 5; There are 13 known locations total in Oregon. The Oak Basin Prairies’ population of the butterfly dropped to 12 in 2017, but has since risen to between 30 and 40, according to BLM’s presentation.

The BLM land considered for restoration is a hilly area south of Courtney Creek Country Road, and is bordered to the west by two private properties owned by tree farmers.

A female Fender's blue butterfly

Over the years, conifer trees have encroached on the prairie meadows – reducing them by at least 20% since 1875. BLM now is stepping in with the goal of protecting both the butterflies and its host plant, Kincaid’s lupine, which is federally threatened.

The area of ​​environmental concern consists of 180 acres of forest and 44 acres of meadow, but at this point BLM is unsure what percentage of those trees could be removed in the project in the timber sale.

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