In the latest step toward protecting the rare island marble butterfly now only found on San Juan Island, wildlife agencies are asking landowners for help.

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to list the species as endangered is pending, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is opening a voluntary program for landowners interested in helping to save the green and white butterfly.

The state agency has opened enrollment for landowners on San Juan Island and Lopez Island, where the island marble butterfly was previously found, to participate in a Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances program to help save the butterfly, according to a news release.

The program is a way for wildlife agencies to work with nonfederal landowners to begin protecting imperiled wildlife ahead of potential endangered species listings, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service fact sheet.

Through the agreements, landowners may commit to reducing threats to a species, such as mowing or grazing livestock in areas with vegetation where the island marble butterfly spends most of its life. Those agreements give landowners a sense of certainty because they are then not subject to additional requirements should the species gain Endangered Species Act protection.

“We are asking landowners to get out ahead of potential ESA listing and voluntarily adopt a few best practices that will help the butterfly recover,” state Department of Fish and Wildlife endangered species section manager Hannah Anderson said in the release.

Since the butterflies are primarily seen in grassy landscapes, property owners with that kind of land are encouraged to participate.

Public meetings will be held the first week of September on each island to introduce the program. Participation is open to private and public landowners.

The program is also encouraging landowners to protect butterfly habitat from deer, which tend to eat the plants where the butterflies spend most of their yearlong life cycle. Fish and Wildlife launched a separate initiative in July that could also help reduce the number of deer affecting the imperiled butterfly.

This fall, the agency is offering qualifying landowners $1,000 to open their land to deer hunting, according to a news release.

Meanwhile, enrollment in the conservation program is likely to continue through September or until the butterfly is listed as endangered, whichever comes first, according to the release.

The island marble butterfly was previously found throughout island areas of Washington and British Columbia, but was believed to be extinct between 1908 and 1998, when it was rediscovered on National Park land on San Juan Island.

For a few years, the butterfly was observed on San Juan and Lopez islands, but has not been seen on Lopez since 2006.

Various groups have been working to conserve the butterfly since its rediscovery, and the Fish and Wildlife Service recommended in April 2018 the species be listed as endangered.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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