This butterfly was once thought extinct. Now it’s off the endangered species list

Jan 21, 2023, 12:00 PM

Image of the Fender's Blue Butterfly (Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy)...

Image of the Fender's Blue Butterfly (Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy)

(Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy)

(CNN) — The Fender’s blue butterfly has fluttered away from the brink of extinction.

The species, once so rare it was thought to be extinct, is no longer considered endangered, according to a January 11 news release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The organization reclassified the species from “endangered” to “threatened” and also finalized a rule to make it easier for landowners to manage the species.

“This is a tremendous success story — to go from nearly extinct to on the road to recovery,” Craig Rowland, acting state supervisor for the service’s Oregon office, said in the release. “We’ve only reached this point of being able to downlist because of successful partnerships with landowners, conservation agencies, businesses, other agencies, and the work of our national wildlife refuges to conserve Fender’s butterfly.

“This is yet another species that is making incredible strides in Oregon,” he added.

The reclassification will take effect February 13, according to the release.

The Fender’s blue butterfly is found only in Oregon’s Willamette Valley — a 150-mile long region in the state that stretches from Portland to Eugene — says the service. The species was thought to be extinct in 1937 but was later rediscovered in 1989. Thanks to local conservation efforts, the butterfly’s population expanded from approximately 3,391 insects in 2000 to 13,700 in 2018, according to a species assessment from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

For Sujud Ottman, a biology and urban agriculture teacher at Evanston Township High School in Illinois and an amateur butterfly conservationist, the species’ recovery is a “sign of hope” for other endangered species.

Ottman told CNN the Fender’s blue butterfly is unique because it prefers to lay its eggs on one host plant, Kincaid’s lupine. This makes the survival of the butterfly and the plant deeply intertwined. Kincaid’s lupine is also categorized as “threatened” by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The insects are also interesting because of their life cycle, Ottman added. The Fender’s caterpillars enter a kind of delayed development called diapause during the winter before emerging as fully formed butterflies. The adults live for only around 10 days, during which they must find a mate and reproduce.

Ottman said habitat loss and the human prevention of natural wildfires are the main threats to the Fender’s blue butterfly. Wildfires are necessary to prevent the prairie habitat the butterflies depend on from turning into forests.

Conservation efforts included planting thousands of Kincaid’s lupine for the butterflies to lay their eggs on as well as prescribed fires to maintain the crucial prairie environment.

The species’ reclassification is “wonderful news,” Ottman added. “It’s super inspirational, to know that a butterfly that was once thought of as extinct is now de-listed off of the endangered species list.

“It’s truly remarkable, and it gives me a lot of hope.”

As pollinators, butterflies are a crucial component of our ecosystems, she explained. That’s part of why protecting endangered butterflies is so important. “I feel like this story is, well, really empowering and I hope it lights a fire within to continue conservation efforts that they’re doing,” she said.

For Ottman, the Fender’s blue butterfly’s recovery may signal hope for other endangered butterfly species, like the iconic monarch butterfly. Monarchs were classified as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in July 2022.

“My dream is for the monarch to basically follow the footsteps of the Fender’s blue butterfly, and, you know, thrive, as well,” she said. “I believe that we can do it, and that we can reverse the damage that we’ve done.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) heads to the floor of the Senate for a vote on Capito...

Clare Foran, Morgan Rimmer and Ted Barrett, CNN

Mitch McConnell to step down from GOP leadership position in the Senate

Mitch McConnell will step down as GOP leader in November, the Kentucky Republican announced on the Senate floor Wednesday.

17 hours ago

Soldiers carry the coffin of Ukrainian poet and serviceman Maksym Kryvtsov who was killed in action...

Stephanie Halasz and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Zelensky warns ‘millions will be killed’ without US aid to Kyiv, as Ukrainian troop deaths reach at least 31,000

“Millions” could die in Ukraine’s war with Russia if US lawmakers don’t approve President Joe Biden’s $60 billion aid request.

4 days ago

Kathy Brandel and her husband of 27 years, Ralph Hendry...

Sharif Paget, Chris Boyette and Polo Sandoval, CNN

Family of Americans believed dead after yacht allegedly hijacked in Grenada describe scene of violence

The family of two Americans who may have been killed in an alleged yacht high jacking in Granada hope the couple might be found alive.

4 days ago

Police tape drapes the crime scene on a trail behind Lake Herrick at the University of Georgia in A...

Ashley R. Williams, Raja Razek, Priscilla Alvarez, Isabel Rosales and Jaide Timm-Garcia, CNN

Questions remain in investigation of death of Augusta University student found on UGA campus

As the investigation continues into the death of an Augusta University student, officials confirmed the immigration status of a suspect.

4 days ago

Kenneth Mitchell, here in 2018, has died....

Megan Thomas, CNN

Kenneth Mitchell, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Marvel’ actor, dead at 49

A native of Canada, Mitchell acquired more than 50 film and television credits over the course of his acting career. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2019.

4 days ago

Charles E. Escalera, 21...

Michelle Watson and Maria Sole Campinoti, CNN

Kentucky man arrested in connection with death of Campbellsville University student

A man has been arrested in connection with the death of a student at Campbellsville University in Kentucky.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

This butterfly was once thought extinct. Now it’s off the endangered species list