The Palos Verdes blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis)
(PVBB) is a postage stamp-sized butterfly that was described in
1977. It has only been found in a relatively small area in the Palos
Verdes peninsula, in southern Los Angeles County, California. Due to
its geographic isolation and declining abundance, it was listed as an endangered
species in 1980. In spite of this, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes bulldozed the
last known site for the butterfly in 1983 to establish a baseball diamond. When
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (usfws) lost its case against the City of Rancho
Palos Verdes for knowingly destroying the last known population, the U.S.
Congress amended the Endangered Species Act to allow prosecution of not only
individuals, but also municipalities and other entities. This is the butterfly that
rewrote the Endangered Species Act.
In 1994, eleven years after it was thought extinct, a tiny relict population of
approximately 65 individuals was discovered on the Defense Fuel Support Point,
San Pedro, a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) site which supplies aircraft and marine
fuel to 28 military bases and activities in California, Arizona, and Nevada.
The butterfly's coastal scrub habitat on the Palos Verdes peninsula has been
shrinking under pressure from urban development, and the dla facility is surrounded
by residential neighborhoods, businesses, schools, playgrounds, a golf
course, a regional park, a cemetery, and an oil refinery. Other factors in the decline
of the habitat include weed control, off-road vehicle use, and non-native
plant invasion. http://butterflyrecovery.org/species_profiles/palos_verdes_blue/
The DLA's Response to the Discovery
The rediscovery of the PVBB triggered one of the most successful recovery efforts
for an endangered species in the history of the Department of Defense. http://www.urbanwildlands.org/pvb.html
The DLA quickly recognized that the protection of this species was not only a
legal responsibility but that its recovery could potentially engender great public
support for the DLA mission on the Palos Verdes peninsula and for the Department
of Defense in general. Consequently, the DLA, U.S. Navy, and the Department
of Defense began to work toward the recovery of the species, along with a
team of partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of California,
Riverside, the Urban Wildlands Group, Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy,
Moorpark College, America's Teaching Zoo, and the Soil Ecology
Restoration Group at San Diego State University.
Restoration of habitat was an important first step in recovery, especially the
reestablishment of healthy stands of the butterfly's host plants, locoweed and deerweed.
These are cultivated in a special nursery run by the Palos Verdes Peninsula
Land Conservancy. The Conservancy uses the plants and its open space as a
medium for teaching local school children and as a place for volunteers from the
local community to help with nursery operations and habitat restoration. This is
a “good neighbor” situation that allows the Defense Fuel Support Point to assist
with projects in its local community.
Surveys are another important component of the pvbb conservation. Annual
surveys for adult butterflies have revealed that conservation efforts are being effective, as the population has grown and is relatively stable. Additionally, locating
and mapping of pvbb host plants has allowed for identification of potentially
important habitat and for more informed land management decisions.
Captive rearing soon became another important part of the recovery program.
Through an agreement with UCLA, and in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, scientists from the University of California–Los Angeles Geography
Department began overseeing a captive butterfly rearing program. The primary
site is situated at Defense Fuel Support Point San Pedro, and a secondary
captive rearing site is with the Butterfly Project of The Urban Wildlands Group
at America's Teaching Zoo. Both sites are funded through the dla and the U.S.
A recent shift in the care and handling of the butterflies, involving hand feeding
adults by volunteers and interns with specialty “deerweed” honey water artificial
nectar, has resulted in an explosion of the captive rearing stock over the
past two seasons from 186 to 4,700. This will allow for an unprecedented reintroduction
to several areas over its original habitat on the Palos Verdes peninsula
in the spring of 2008.
In addition, the restoration efforts have provided many learning and research
opportunities for both the general public and university students and faculty. The
dod and dla have also received an unprecedented amount of positive publicity
for the work they have done to recover the pvbb.
Keys to Success
- Early and conscientious attention to the issue once it was recognized
- Cooperative conservation: recruitment of a wide-ranging team of partners to
work together for the recovery of the species
- Successful funding to support the recovery programs
- Cost-sharing initiatives, including in-kind services, from partners
- Positive and highly effective public affairs support throughout the project
The DLA achieved great success in conserving biological diversity in a highly degraded
habitat and did so in a way that was completely compatible with its primary
military mission of providing supply support, and technical and logistics
services to the U.S. military services and several federal civilian agencies. The DLA
has forged a model for government and private efforts to conserve endangered