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For Release: Thursday, July 20, 2017

Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and New York State DEC Announce Endangered Karner Blue Butterfly Exceeds Federal Recovery Threshold

Collaborative Conservation Efforts Drive Recovery of Endangered Butterfly

Albany, NY- Twenty-five years after being federally listed as endangered, the Albany Pine Bush population of the Karner blue butterfly, an icon of the Capital District's inland pine barrens, has exceeded recovery goals for the local population, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission (Commission) announced today. Bringing the butterfly one step closer to recovery in New York, the milestone is the result of collaboration by the Commission, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect the best remaining global example of an inland pitch pine-scrub oak barrens. Driven by science, the Commission's programs of controlled burning, forest thinning, restoration seeding and environmental education have also helped many other rare animals and advanced state and federal efforts to protect pollinators and young forest wildlife.

USFWS Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber said, "The Albany Pine Bush partners have shown that recovery is possible for the endangered Karner blue butterfly. By managing the barrens for the endangered butterfly, the Commission is bringing along many other types of rare wildlife, including the at-risk spotted turtle, wood turtle and frosted elfin butterfly."

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New York is committed to protecting the State's natural resources and environmental treasures for future generations, including endangered species like the Karner blue butterfly. Collaborative efforts that include science-based habitat management like New York's Young Forest Initiative and partnerships with the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are critical to our work restoring endangered species."

"The Commission is proud of the incredible team of staff, volunteers, and public and private partners that have over many years made it possible for us to advance this species' recovery and pine barrens restoration in the Albany Pine Bush", said Commission Executive Director Christopher Hawver.

Commission Conservation Director, Neil Gifford, said "The preserve's population of Karner blues has grown from less than a thousand in 2007 to more than 15,000 in 2016." According to Gifford, "2016 was the 4th consecutive year that the preserve's Karner population exceeded the 3,000 butterfly minimum established in the 2003 federal Karner blue butterfly Recovery Plan." "Our wildlife data also show that Karner conservation has helped dozens of other pollinating insects, birds, reptiles and amphibians; it is the best indicator that our ecosystem restoration program is making a healthier Pine Bush."

The quarter-sized Karner blue butterfly was identified in the 1940s by novelist Vladimir Nabokov in the New York hamlet Karner. The USFWS estimates that when the species was protected as endangered 25 years ago, the rangewide population had declined by up to 99 percent. The butterfly depends on the wild lupine plant, which cannot tolerate shade.

To help ensure that Karner blue butterflies persist into the future, the USFWS established 13 federal recovery units across the species' range, which also includes Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Ohio. Within each unit, the USFWS described the number and size of populations thought to be necessary for recovery. The Albany Pine Bush is one of three recovery areas in New York referred to as the Glacial Lake Albany Recovery Unit.

Recovery goals must be met in multiple areas in New York and in other states in order to delist the Karner blue butterfly. Conservation efforts continue in other areas in Saratoga and Warren counties.

Background Information on the Pine Bush:

The 3,300+ - acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP), located in New York's Capital District, protects one of the best remaining inland pitch-pine scrub oak barrens in the world. This extraordinary fire-dependent ecosystem provides habitat for many plants and animals and supports 76 New York State-designated wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Since 1991, the acreage of suitable habitat has increased from 13 acres at 9 sites to more than 600 acres at 35 sites. The APBP is a National Natural Landmark, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Site, a New York State Unique Area, Bird Conservation Area and a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area. Characterized by rolling sand dunes and miles of trails, the APBP offers visitors many recreational opportunities including hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is a public-private partnership created by the NYS Legislature in 1988 to protect and manage the APBP and provide the public with educational and recreational opportunities.

As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center is a state-of-the-art "green" certified interpretive center where visitors come to understand why the Pine Bush is rare and special. A visit to this unique destination is an exciting exploration where learning comes naturally through interactive exhibits, an outdoor Discovery Trail, and numerous programs on the ecology, natural history, cultural history and management of the Pine Bush. Admission to the Discovery Center is free (there is a small fee for programs). The Center is open daily weekdays 9am-4pm, weekends and most holidays 10am-4pm. For more information, visit the Albany Pine Bush website or call 518-456-0655.

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