Resource ChallengeThe Karner blue butterfly (KBB) is a Federally-listed endangered species. Central and northwestern Wisconsin has about seven million acres of potential habitat, especially where pine barrens, oak savannas, and mowed corridors already support wild lupine, the KBB caterpillar’s only food. Without periodic management or disturbance, natural woody growth eliminates the KBB habitat. Wisconsin’s KBB Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) includes an agreement between the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and partners that allows land managers to operate in and around Karner blue habitat, provided they minimize incidental take (death, harm or harassment) of Karner blues. The Plan also allows some flexibility in how land managers choose to conserve KBB habitat. The FWS permit for the HCP frees the agricultural community, private woodlot owners, homeowners, and others from regulatory oversight. Led by the Wisconsin DNR, landowners have responded to the conservation challenge, voluntarily protecting and conserving KBB and their habitats. Moreover, the general public’s attitude toward endangered species management has become much more positive. Collaboration has built trust between governments and citizens, enabling meaningful and widespread protection for the Karner blue.
Examples of Key PartnersUSDI-FWS, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Sand County Foundation, 38 HCP partners (including Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, eight county forest departments, 10 utility companies, five industrial timber companies, 11 town and county highway departments), The Nature Conservancy, the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Agriculture, and private landowners.
Results and AccomplishmentsThe FWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the NRCS have developed several conservation plans with private landowners. Most partners are directly involved in restoring and managing the KBB habitat. All HCP partners are involved in education and outreach, promoting conservation via newsletters, brochures, video productions, and presentations. Accomplishments include:
• Enrolled 250,000 acres of partner lands in the HCP.
• Expanded the partnership from 26 to 38 partners since the FWS issued an incidental take permit in 1999.
• Restored about 900 acres of habitat on non-HCP private lands annually, with three to five percent of those lands occupied by the KBB. The Sand County Foundation is helping to restore or enhance about 1,400 acres of land on 30 private properties.
• The community of Black River Falls hosts an annual Karner Blue Butterfly Festival, featuring a KBB princess and tours to KBB habitat.