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On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

December 2008

“It’s not easy to replicate what nature does. Trying to fix it after the fact is much more expensive and complicated than taking care of it in the first place.” Mary Jo Andersen, Oregon Zoo.



A new report on the effects of climate change on Oregon’s fish and wildlife is available now.

Produced by the Defenders of Wildlife and ODFW, the report outlines a plan for preparing for climate change in Oregon, with a focus on managing fish and wildlife populations and their habitats.

The findings are based on information from adaptation experts from state agencies, universities and non-profits who worked together as part of a Fish, Wildlife, and Habitats Subcommittee under the state's Global Warming Commission to define the problem of wildlife adaptation in the state. It outlines priorities and policy recommendations.

Preparing Oregon's Fish, Wildlife, and Habitats for Future Climate Change: A Guide for State Adaptation Efforts can be downloaded from the =Defenders of Wildlife= or the ODFW website (pdf).

Oregon silverspot butterfly
Oregon silverspot butterfly
Oregon silverspot butterfly hatchling
Hatchlings are very small and need controlled environments to develop.
Early blue violets, the host plant of the silverspot butterfly, are raised at the Oregon Zoo and planted in release areas.
Larvae are released in a coastal meadow on a foggy day.


Mary Jo Andersen will be the first to tell you that propagating butterflies is nothing like propagating turtles.

“With a turtle, your main concern is to raise it until it’s bigger than a bullfrog’s throat and release it in the right place. With butterflies, every one of them is a Goldilocks—it can’t be too hot or too cold or too wet or too dry. And, who’s to say what’s too wet or too cold? There isn’t a manual.”

Although, by the time Andersen is done, she will probably be able to write one. A zookeeper at the Oregon Zoo, she is leading a project to reintroduce silverspot butterflies in native coastal meadows.

The silverspot is one of two Oregon butterflies federally listed as threatened. Once found in coastal headlands from northern California to southern Washington, it has all but disappeared from Oregon.

“The silverspot is really a symbol of what’s happening to habitat in much of Oregon–it is being degraded by invasive species and fragmented by development.”

Outside of the omplications of propagating butterflies through the metamorphosis process, there is the problem of getting enough host plants on the ground before caterpillars are released, and then there is just the sheer volume of caterpillars she needs. “It will take thousands to ensure a few survive. The breeding strategy of butterflies is to lay hundreds of eggs to produce a few adult butterflies to maintain the population.”

Help with producing the silverspot’s host plant, Viola adunca, comes from Oregon Zoo horticulturist Joan Langsev who has been raising and planting the violets. The early blue violet is the sole source of food for silverspot larvae. Butterflies lay their eggs on the plant and caterpillars eat its leaves to survive.

How far apart to place host plants is another concern. Dr. Paulette Bierzychudek of Lewis and Clark College is contributing her research expertise to the project, studying how far a caterpillar can travel between plants.

To date, the team has released pupae and larvae at three different sites on the Oregon coast.

A graduate of Oregon State University, Andersen has been a zookeeper at the Oregon Zoo since 1985. Her work on silverspot recovery is funded in part by a Conservation Strategy Implementation grant. Andersen is also teaming with Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle; together, they will document the work for the benefit of others.

The Oregon silverspot butterfly is a Strategy species, its habitat is the coast range ecoregion (pdf).


Workshops on climate change, wildlife connectivity in the Pacific Northwest, and wind energy and wildlife drew capacity crowds during the year. If you missed any of them, or just couldn’t keep up with the note taking, visit ODFW’s website for copies of the presentations. They are in the Conservation Strategy section under workshops.


Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America, sits on the border of northeast Oregon and western Idaho. Once the homeland of the Nez Perce, its native habitats still support a great variety of fish and wildlife. While much of the area is already held in public lands, the Nature Conservancy has been working to ensure its long-term conservation. To this end, the organization recently acquired a number of private inholdings along the Inmanha River and its tributaries totaling 6,673 acres.

“These properties are the gateways to hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands,” said Phil Shephard, formerly regional program director for the Conservancy. “This purchase will consolidate ownership, enabling the Forest Service to control weeds, manage fire and provide access more effectively on public lands. It also prevents the properties from being divided into multiple ownerships and developed.”

Eventually, the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service proposes to acquire the properties from the Conservancy using funds dedicated to land purchases. Public ownership would ensure access for fishing, hunting and hiking on lands previously closed to the public.

“Fourteen key fish and wildlife species, including Oregon’s largest bighorn sheep herd, occupy this area,” said Vic Coggins, Wallowa District biologist for ODFW, who has been working with the Conservancy on the project. “All of the land acquired is within conservation opportunity areas identified in the Conservation Strategy.”

A grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to support protection of important lands identified in state conservation plans is helping to make possible the land transfer.

“We are delighted to see the Duke grants being used for on-the-ground conservation in Oregon,” said Holly Michael, ODFW Strategy lead. “The Oregon Conservation Strategy keeps us well positioned to take advantage of funding opportunities.”

The Hells Canyon Conservation Opportunity Area is in the Blue Mountain ecoregion (pdf). It includes the Hells Canyon Wilderness, Imnaha River Wild and Scenic River area, McGraw Creek Wilderness, part of Zumwalt Prairie, and several Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. The area contains 10% of the ecoregion’s grasslands. For more information about the Nature Conservancy of Oregon, visit their website.


A newly-formed workgroup will update and expand the climate change section of the Oregon Conservation Strategy. “Given the rapidly changing dynamics of climate change issues, we decided it was necessary to expand this section of the Strategy sooner rather than later,” said Michael Pope, ODFW Strategy outreach coordinator.

The workgroup will update information in a minor revision, while laying the framework for a major revision of the Strategy planned for 2011.

Team members are: Cathy MacDonald, The Nature Conservancy; Sara O'Brien, Defenders of Wildlife; Audrey Hatch, ODFW; Nell Fuller, USFWS; Brett Brownscombe, Oregon Trout; Dave Wiley, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; Mike Dykzeul, Oregon Forest Industries Council; Michael Pope, ODFW and Holly Michael, ODFW.

The interim revision is slated be complete in March.


Plastic water bottles—get over it And while you’re at it, throw some cloth shopping bags in the trunk and nix plastic shopping bags. It is estimated that 60-80% of all debris in the ocean is plastic, negatively impacting the marine environment and its organisms. Check out the Surfrider Foundation of Oregon website for more information.


The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and action plan for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a non-regulatory, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands. See past issues of the Strategy newsletter on the ODFW website.

Meg Kenagy
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
(503) 947-6021

Contact Meg Kenagy

For strategy information
Contact Michael Pope

For a copy of the Strategy
Contact Karen Buell at ODFW.

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