Bay Checkerspot butterfly “effect” responsible for model conservation plans
MORGAN HILL, Calif. – April 2, 2014 – In its latest reverberation, the Bay Checkerspot butterfly and its caretakers were able to garner the Wildlife Habitat Council’s 2013 Corporate Habitat of the Year Award. The Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on working lands through partnerships and education.
Members of Waste Management’s Kirby Canyon Recycling and Disposal Facility and the Kirby Canyon Landfill Butterfly Trust were in attendance as they unveiled the new sign showcasing the facility’s latest achievement. Kirby Canyon is home to the largest population of the federally-listed Bay Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis).
“It is very gratifying to have our efforts at Kirby recognized,” said Becky Azevedo, environmental manager, Waste Management. “But the star of show is the Bay Checkerspot butterfly and its positive ‘effect’ on conservation.”
The Bay Checkerspot butterfly’s story began when a biologist first said, “we found the mother lode,” at about the time Waste Management was in the planning stage of building Kirby Canyon landfill over 30 years ago. Waste Management, in coordination with Stanford University and environmental consulting firm, TRA, prepared the Conservation Plan for the Bay Checkerspot butterfly at Kirby Canyon and set aside 267 acres for its protected habitat.
- At the same time, a defense contractor opposed the
butterfly’s “proposed Federal listing” under the Endangered Species Act,
accusing it of being “a threat to national security.” The butterfly took on the
defense contractor and won as it received its federally threatened status
designation in 1987. (At that time, there were zero
new Endangered Species listings.)
- In the late ‘90s, the impacts of “Dry Nitrogen Deposition”
from burgeoning Silicon Valley and the critical role of cattle grazing were
researched topics. Invasions of annual grasses (as a result of fertilization
from air pollution and the removal of grazing cattle) crowded out the larval
host plants of the butterfly at several sites.
- Recently, to encourage the re-establishment of the butterfly in areas where it has gone extinct, Kirby Canyon Landfill, in cooperation with the Creekside Center for Earth Observation, provided thousands of larvae for translocation to other sites. In early 2013, 10,000 larvae were introduced on two sites —Tulare Hill in Santa Clara County and Edgewood Natural Preserve in San Mateo County.
“It is a biologist’s dream to observe the threatened Bay Checkerspot butterfly in its natural habitat. Colleagues from around the world have conducted significant research with the cooperation and encouragement of Waste Management,” said Stuart “Stu” Weiss, Ph.D, consulting ecologist and chief scientist, Creekside Center for Earth Observation. “I am grateful for the company’s foresight and commitment to the environment. The Kirby Canyon Butterfly Trust has provided a model for far-reaching conservation efforts for the rest of the ecosystem.”
“Kirby Canyon's recognition by the Wildlife Habitat Council as the Corporate Wildlife Habitat of the Year seems appropriate,” said Taylor “Tay” Peterson, TRA Environmental Sciences, an author of the Kirby Canyon Landfill Bay Checkerspot Butterfly Conservation Plan. “Waste Management has remained a steward of this unique ecosystem for more than 30 years, and has gone beyond what was required in the original permits for the landfill.”
Under the 1986 Kirby Canyon Conservation Agreement, Waste Management acts as the guardian of this unique ecosystem that also includes the rare jewelflower, Santa Clara Valley Dudleya, Tiburon paintbrush, and the threatened California red-legged frog. The Trust Agreement required that a 267-acre grazing lease be maintained over prime butterfly habitat adjacent to the landfill for ten years, until it could be shown that the landfill did not adversely impact the butterfly population (and, so far, monitoring shows that it hasn't). The lease has been maintained and monitored for 29 years. An additional 184 acres in the North Canyon area is also being established as a conservation area.
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