Restoration in the City Limits

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When I applied to the CLM internship I pictured myself out in a super remote area trying to adjust to long days of hiking and without much human interaction. Working in the West Eugene Wetlands with the BLM couldn’t be farther from that! The West Eugene Wetlands is a partnership between the BLM, state government, various non-profits, and the community of Eugene to restore and preserve wetland species of the Willamette Valley. Before white settlers came out west and decided to farm the land, the valley was full of small forbs, tufted grasses, and a smattering of oaks. So often conservation is done far from the public eye but here you can drive on main city roads and see endangered species out your car window! It’s interesting to think about how a 150,000 person city can coexist with the 300+ species found in the wetlands including many that are threatened or endangered. You might not be able to tell from my photos but we are never more than a 20 minute drive from downtown Eugene!

It’s my third week here in the wetlands and we’ve already finished monitoring for our first endangered species, Lomatium bradshawii (Bradshaw’s lomatium).  I worked with one of our main partners, the Institute for Applied Ecology, to do this monitoring at 5 sites around Eugene. Bradshaw’s lomatium is extremely delicate and one of the first plants to bloom in the wetlands along with common camas, western buttercup, and death camas.

An intern from the Institute for Applied Ecology and I count Bradshaw’s lomatiums in a square meter along our transect. We found anywhere from 0 to 140 individuals in each square meter!

Bradshaw’s lomatium with one flowering head.

Next up on our list of endangered species is the Fender’s blue butterfly(FBB). The weather has to cooperate just right for these little guys to emerge from diapause, fly around, and lay eggs for next year. It rained for my first two weeks, so on our first sunny day above 70 degrees we headed out hopeful with nets in hand. Earlier in the week my mentor and I attended a training for all the people who would be going out across the state of Oregon monitoring FBB. It was awesome to meet the people from all the different agencies (Army Corp of Engineers, Fish & Wildlife, Institute for Applied Ecology, & Washington State University) who would be doing similar work. We learned identifying characteristics, life history, and the proper way to swing your net.

Waiting for a butterfly sighting in a field of Plectritis congesta(common nectar source for FBB) and Lupinus sulphureus spp. kincaidii(FBB host plant).

During our first couple days walking butterfly transects we were able to net many butterflies, but so far all have been a common species that looks similar to the endangered FBB. This other species of blue butterfly is the silvery blue (SBB). Both butterflies host on the Kincaid’s lupin, occupying the same habitats. A trained eye can sometimes distinguish the two species during flight, but netting or using binoculars is required in the monitoring protocol to truly ID the two butterflies. As the weather continues to warm up we should be seeing more and more butterflies so I’m hoping next week we see our first FBB of the year!

The silvery blue butterfly here looks almost identical to the FBB. Very subtle color differences, a couple ventral wing spots, and slightly different life histories differentiate the two species.

 

Sarah

West Eugene Wetland, BLM