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Colorado Butterfly Plant

Making a Comeback

Colorado Butterfly Plant, photo by Travis Wooten/Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory

What started with maybe at most five has turned into a field of about 270 Colorado butterfly plants.

Listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 2000, the plant is making a comeback on land owned by Casey Epler in Laramie County.

The plant is a member of the evening primrose family. It is a perennial distinguished with four petals that are fused at the base into a slender tube above the seed-producing stem. The plant grows primarily in southeastern Wyoming, north central Colorado and extreme western Nebraska.

In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in accordance with a court-approved settlement, designated 3,538 acres of critical habitat along approximately 51 stream miles within Platte and Laramie counties.

James Pike, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) district conservationist in the Cheyenne field office, is humble in his assessment about the Colorado Butterfly plant coming back on Epler’s property. He is reluctant to take all the credit. “It could be the timing or the moisture.”

Nonetheless, part of the credit involved the implementation of good conservation practices. Pike said, “It works. It’s about keeping cattle off the riparian area. It’s not rocket science. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that work.”

Epler is thrilled with the result. He worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to meet their guidelines. Epler then modified some practices with help from the NRCS . Conservation practices, including fence and water projects, were done under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program.

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