Seaside signal. (Seaside, Or.) 1905-current, December 11, 2015, Page 11A, Image 11

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    December 11, 2015 • Seaside Signal • • 11A
return to Clatsop Plains
Seaside High School students help the North Coast Land Conservancy and other community volunteers plant more than
10,000 early blue violets on the Clatsop Plains.
Conservancy plants the native fl owers to lure threatened Oregon silverspot butterfl y back
By Katherine Lacaze
Seaside Signal
About 9,000 early blue
violet seedlings, native to
the region, found a new
home — or rather, returned
to home — at sites across
Clatsop Plains, assisted by
volunteers from local com-
munities who helped the
North Coast Land Conser-
vancy during the organiza-
tion’s two-day violet plant-
ing event Nov. 20 and 21.
Planting the fl ower seed-
lings was the latest chapter
in the conservancy’s decade-
long quest to restore a prairie
habitat on the Clatsop Plains
and Long Beach (Wash.)
Seaside High School students Whitney Westerholm (left)
and Brittany West share a laugh while volunteering with the
North Coast Land Conservancy.
Peninsula that will bring back
a robust Oregon silverspot
butterfl y population, which
is listed as threatened under
the Endangered Species Act.
The diet of the butterfl y lar-
vae consists entirely of dried
violet stems and leaves.
There to get the violets
into the ground were near-
Call Hardworking
ly 90 volunteers, including
about 20 students from Sea-
side High School’s Nation-
al Honor Society and art of
ethnobotany classes. Com-
munity members joined in
from as far away as New-
port and Lincoln City, with
only a few repeat volun-
teers between the two days.
“The fortunate weather
certainly favored our high
turnout,” Stewardship Di-
rector Melissa Reich said.
Using native plants
The early blue violet
shoots were developed from
seeds collected since 2006 at
Camp Rilea and elsewhere
on Clatsop Plains. From
there, seeds were taken to the
Natural Resources Conser-
vation Service’s Plant Mate-
rials Center in Corvallis to be
planted. When the seed pods
reached maturity, the center
gathered the fl owers’ scat-
tered seed to make a stock of
more than 16,000 seeds.
“We keep the seed from
the different regions sepa-
rate because the habitat and
conditions are different,” Re-
ich said. “Our violets need
to thrive in very sandy soils
and coexist with all the other
native dune prairie plants in
the area.”
In 2014, a bag of Cor-
vallis-grown violet seeds
was sent to the North Coast
temporary native plant nurs-
ery in Tillamook. A group
of young men from Camp
Tillamook, an Oregon Youth
Authority facility, fi lled
thousands of plastic plug
containers with seeds.
The seedlings spent most
of 2014 and the winter of
2015 at the nursery, where
they were exposed once
again to the coastal environ-
ment. In July, the conservan-
cy collected thousands of
the burgeoning shoots and
brought them back to the
organization’s Circle Creek
property near Seaside to con-
tinue maturing in time for
fall planting.
On Clatsop Plains, ap-
proximately 9,000 violets
were placed at two sites
owned by the land conser-
vancy — Neacoxie Forest
and Reed Ranch — and one
site owned by the Nation-
al Park Service — John B.
Yeon Scenic Corridor. The
conservancy is planting the
violets into plots treated last
fall by an excavator that re-
moved topsoil.
“We waited a year after
the treatment to give the little
violets an extra year to grow
and develop their roots,” Re-
ich said.
Overall, the group had
about 16,000 violets. The
remainder were planted at
the conservancy’s Surf Pines
property and are going to be
planted later at the Willapa
National Wildlife Refuge on
the Long Beach Peninsula,
Reich said.
continues work
The conservancy is in the
second year of a fi ve-year
North Coast prairie resto-
ration project with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service,
the National Park Service
and Willapa National Wild-
life Refuge. The primary goal
of the project is to boost the
native prairie ecosystem be-
ing lost primarily to develop-
ment, Reich said.
A factor in restoring the
habitat is bringing back the
Oregon silverspot butterfl y
population. Clatsop Plains
and the Long Beach Peninsula
used to teem with butterfl ies
of that species but they hav-
en’t been seen since the 1990s,
Reich said. They were listed as
threatened in 1980. The clos-
est remaining population is at
Mount Hebo. The partners said
they believe that is because the
environment on those prairie
lands has changed. Some vi-
olets remain, but not enough
to support a robust butterfl y
“If we can restore the habi-
tat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service will be able to re-in-
troduce the butterfl y to the
North Coast,” Reich said.
The conservancy is man-
aging the coastal prairie hab-
itat using strategies such as
planting native plants and
removing invasive species,
the most prevalent of which is
Scotch broom.
“All of the coastal prai-
rie habitat has been invaded
at some level, and we need
to keep on top of it because
it quickly shades out native
prairie species,” Reich said.
The group seeks volun-
teer help for its occasional
“broombuster” events.
After the violets are plant-
ed into the research plots, the
Institute of Applied Ecology
in Corvallis will monitor them
in the spring and make rec-
ommendations for adaptive
management. Meanwhile, the
group is seeking funding for
treatments and plantings on a
larger scale, Reich said.
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