Prairies, Butterflies, and Cows by Karlene McCabe

The Greenbelt Land Trust is successfully blending the needs of both wildlife and working ranches in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. With help from a Living Lands grant, the Greenbelt Land Trust is securing a conservation easement on a ranch in the valley that will conserve rare oak woodland, oak savannah and upland prairie habitats. The ranch is located within a priority conservation area identified in the Oregon Habitat Joint Venture Willamette Valley Plan and Oregon’s Wildlife Conservation Strategy adopted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Upland prairie habitat, in particular, is critical to the survival of imperiled species such as the Fender’s blue butterfly and its host plant – Kincaid’s lupine. The Fender’s blue has lost all but one tenth of one percent of its original prairie habitat. In the absence of a historic fire regime, the ranch owners have been using rotational grazing to maintain the upland prairie habitats on their property. Considering that less than 1000 acres of this precious habitat remain on the landscape today, these simple efforts amount to a significant conservation return. 

The Greenbelt Land Trust’s next big project is to continue its partnership with the landowner and other partners to further restore the upland prairie habitats on the site and reintroduce Kincaid’s lupine to the property. The hope is that the Fender’s blue butterfly will follow. The landowners will continue to do their part for the prairie and the species that depend on it, using grazing as a tool to reduce non native plants within the upland prairie habitats.

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