Field of Wild Blue Lupine

OSI Begins Habitat Restoration Project for Endangered Karner Blue Butterfly in Northern Saratoga County

Image Credit: Emily Debolt

MOREAU, NY (Oct. 30, 2019) — The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced it is embarking on a habitat restoration project to support the endangered Karner Blue butterfly on a property it permanently protected earlier this year. The project, on land slated for addition to Moreau Lake State Park, will restore Karner Blue habitat to a condition suitable to support significant populations of the butterfly.

OSI’s “Smith Farm” property, has been federally recognized as an ideal location for Karner Blue butterfly habitat restoration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The habitat restoration project will begin this month with the removal of White Pine, a tree that limits the growth of flowering Wild Blue Lupine, which is necessary to the Karner Blue’s life cycle.

Male Karner Blue butterfly
Male Karner Blue butterfly
Image Credit: Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission

OSI is undertaking this project in partnership with the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission. Once this phase of the restoration is complete, the property is expected to be transferred from OSI to OPRHP as an addition to Moreau Lake State Park. The restoration work will continue, and the land will be open to the public for hiking and wildlife viewing.

“The Open Space Institute is enthusiastic to begin this project with the hope that we can welcome the Karner Blue butterfly back to the landscape,” said Kim Elliman, OSI president and CEO. “Projects like this give us hope for the future. Through land conservation and stewardship, we can save this tiny, beautiful species and enrich our lives by connecting to the wonders of nature.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC is pleased to be working with OSI, State Parks, and the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission on the Smith Farm restoration. The work done in New York State to restore early successional habitat species like the Karner Blue also benefits many other species in need of protection. Successes like this have shown the importance of collaboration with state and federal agencies, municipalities, non-for-profit organizations, and private landowners in the preservation and enhancement of our natural resources for all New Yorkers to enjoy now and into the future.”

State Parks Executive Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth said, "Not only is New York’s world class park system an exceptional place for outdoor recreation, it serves as a sanctuary for rare and endangered species. We look forward to working with OSI on this project that will improve habitat for the Karner Blue butterfly, help educate our visitors about the need to protect pollinators in New York and create new recreational access to the Hudson River.”

When successfully managed, the Smith Farm property is expected to support a minimum of 3,000 butterflies annually, and provide a critical piece of Karner Blue butterfly recovery habitat in New York State.

The site will also support a wide variety of birds including brown thrasher, prairie warbler, eastern towhee, American woodcock, indigo bunting, bluebirds, and, potentially, red-headed woodpeckers and eastern whip-poor-will.

Neil Gifford, Conservation Director of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission said, “As a member of state and federal recovery teams, the Smith Farm site is going to be a tremendous asset for recovery of the endangered Karner Blue butterfly, as well as a wide variety of rare and declining wildlife, especially young-forest or early successional birds and pollinating insects. This will truly be an asset to the conservation of many New York State’s wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need.”

"This project is an example of how our partners are essential to listed species conservation. We are so excited that OPRHP is interested in incorporating habitat restoration for Karner Blue butterflies and other rare wildlife and plants into their newest park unit and that OSI is willing to help get it started. This should provide a great opportunity to advance the recovery of the species in New York given the project size and scope," said David Stilwell Field Office Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Based on population decline across its historic range, the Karner Blue butterfly was listed as endangered in New York in 1977 and nationally in 1992. While the Karner Blue butterfly can feed on nectar from many different flowers, the Karner Blue caterpillar relies on the Wild Blue Lupine as its sole food source. Wild Blue Lupine requires a savanna-style open canopy landscape in which plenty of light hits the ground and brush is kept at a minimum with low-heat, seasonal fires.

In addition to being ideal restoration habitat for the Karner Blue butterfly, OSI’s Smith Farm property is also the northern extent of the Palmertown Range corridor, one of the wildest and most natural terrains in Saratoga County which runs from Saratoga Springs to Fort Ticonderoga.

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