The Fender’s blue butterfly will be moving off the federal endangered list with its reclassification to threatened. (Photo provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation)

In the spring of 2021 with the pandemic firmly in place, I jumped at the opportunity to get outside and be around others on a late Tuesday afternoon for a tour of Lupine Meadows — that 58-acre stretch of protected land on the east side of North 19th that runs from the railroad tracks to West Hills Road.

As the get-together started to wrap up, Greenbelt Land Trust’s Matt Benotsch took a knee to show us the Kincaid’s lupine, a threatened plant species. Fluttering in the area were small blue butterflies — they could’ve been of the silvery blue species or even the federally endangered Fender’s blue butterfly.

Benotsch talked with enthusiasm about the Fender’s and how they lay their eggs exclusively on Kincaid’s lupine.

Twenty-one months later, the Fender’s blue butterfly is making news. Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the butterfly on Feb. 13 will be moving off the endangered list with its reclassification to threatened. Wildlife officials have determined that populations are recovering in the Willamette Valley.

Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “This little butterfly was nearly lost to Oregon, but now we can celebrate its recovery along with the 50th anniversary of the landmark law that saved this species.”

The Fender’s blue is a tiny butterfly with a 1-inch wingspan. It’s found only in the prairie and oak savannah of the Willamette Valley — Lupine Meadows included. The species is so rare that it was presumed extinct in 1937 until small populations were rediscovered in 1989.

When Fish and Wildlife listed the Fender’s blue as endangered in 2000, fewer than 4,000 of the butterflies were known to live in the wild. Although Fender’s blue numbers have fluctuated over the years, a 2016 survey found populations had grown to 29,000 total individuals.

Fender’s can be found flying from mid-April through June in Benton, Lane, Linn, Polk, Washington and Yamhill counties.

Greenbelt Land Trust, which led us on that tour in May 2021, and numerous other organizations along with private landowners have all contributed to the butterfly’s comeback.

2. Music in the Park donations 

For those who enjoy taking in the sounds during the city’s summer concert series known as Music in the Park, you might recall having the opportunity to donate some money to help out local music programs.

Donations were secured in person on site and through a QR code. The Philomath Park Advisory Board, which organizes the event, passed on $600 to the Philomath Performing Arts Benefit Fund.

Tom Klipfel, the organization’s treasurer, wrote a letter of appreciation last month to the park board and mentioned that in 2022, $7,700 in grants “allowed the performing arts programs to purchase things such as new performance risers, practice chairs, music stands, new instruments and instrument repairs.”

The park board started to go over details of this summer’s Music in the Park series at its meeting on Thursday. This will be the seventh year of the series (not counting 2020 when it was canceled).

3. Erin’s Law lessons coming

On our local high school campus, students will on Jan. 23 begin a series of sexual abuse prevention lessons. Four lessons will be offered that cover healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, consent, four types of abuse and resources and options.

The lessons are the result of the 2015 passage of legislation commonly known as Erin’s Law. The law requires the development and adoption of child sexual abuse prevention programs for students in all Oregon schools.

Plans for the lessons at the high school were included in this week’s Weekly Warrior newsletter. I’m not sure what plans the school district has for the lower grades.

The law was named for Erin Merryn, a childhood sexual assault survivor, author, speaker and activist. She introduced the legislation in her home state of Illinois in 2012 and it caught on in several other states.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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