SPP Launches New Conservation Program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

Taylor's checkerspot

Adult female Taylor's chekerspot

SPP Launches New Conservation Program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

By Graduate Research Associate Dennis Aubrey

The Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) and the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) are preparing to launch a brand new conservation program.  In addition to prairie plants and Oregon spotted frogs, we will be partnering on a new captive rearing program to raise Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies (Euphydryas editha taylori) for release on South Sound prairies.  The Taylor’s checkerspot is listed as a state-endangered species in Washington and is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.  These butterflies once flourished on glacial outwash prairies, low elevation grassy balds and coastal grassland sites from southern British Columbia to central Oregon, but in recent decades habitat loss and degradation have reduced it to a few small, isolated populations.

Staff at MCCCW are currently hard at work constructing a custom greenhouse at the prison which will house the program, The UV light transmission of the glass structure will provide the checkerspots with ideal growing conditions, and its interior partition will create two separate climate controlled rooms.  The building is expected to be complete by the end of the month, and the first release of larva onto South Sound prairies will occur in April 2012.  Currently the Oregon Zoo is the only facility rearing Taylor’s checkerspots.  The new structure at the prison will provide a second rearing program to assist with butterfly recovery efforts.   The project is generously funded by the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy.  Other collaborating partners include Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Corrections, the Evergreen State College, the Oregon Zoo, and Joint Base Lewis McChord.  Even though the new rearing facility is not yet complete, SPP graduate student intern Dennis Aubrey has been busy preparing for the new program.  Dennis is receiving training from staff at the Oregon Zoo as they raise checkerspots, as well as assisting with field activities. He recently helped release 1036 prediapause checkerspot larva at the Scatter Creek Prairie restoration plots.  Along with staff at MCCCW, he also helped conduct interviews and hire inmates for the rearing technician position.  Dennis will continue to play an active role in training incarcerated women to become butterfly rearing technicians.

checkerspot release

Graduate student intern Dennis Aubrey helping release checkerspot larva at Scatter Creek

Our partners at MCCCW have been enthusiastic participants in all phases of the planning and implementation of this project.  All involved are optimistic that this is the beginning of a successful long-term undertaking to recover endangered butterflies and bring science education to incarcerated women.  This program promises to be an integral part of a growing culture of sustainability and conservation at the facility.

To donate to the SPP Taylor’s Checkerspot Program and help conserve biodiversity in Washington, click here.

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