Cheers to butterflies

Katie Sapp
Siuslaw National Forest, U.S. Forest Service
May 3rd, 2013 at 8:00PM

As the bartender drew pints of Silverspot India Pale Ale for the crush of people in the Pelican Pub and Brewery in Pacific City, Ore., recently, Michelle Dragoo, Siuslaw National Forest wildlife biologist, and Anne Walker, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, prepared to tell the story of the butterfly that inspired the event. About 50 people grabbed a drink and a snack then settled in to listen.

Beer and endangered butterflies? Generally there’s not much in common there. But in this small western Oregon town they intersect in an interesting manner.

The Oregon silverspot butterfly once flourished in beach communities along the West Coast, but due to habitat loss they are found now in only a handful of protected areas, many of which are within the boundaries of the Siuslaw National Forest.

Multiple agencies and nonprofits have worked hard to help bring the silverspot populations back. The effort includes clearing out non-native plants and trees and replanting the early blue violet perennial that the silverspot caterpillar exclusively feeds on, as well as other native plants that the butterfly needs to survive. Dragoo and Walker explained that the silverspot begins life by hatching from tiny eggs into minuscule caterpillars smaller than the letters imprinted on a penny.

The Hebo Stewardship Group, an Oregon coalition of citizens, governments and non-profit organizations who actively restore watersheds connected to the Hebo Ranger District of the Siuslaw, has recognized the Oregon silverspot butterfly as a key factor in local restoration efforts. They, together with the Nestucca Neskowin Watershed Council, organized the pub meeting where the two biologists shared the story of the silverspot’s history, lifecycle and habitat.

But one of the biggest challenges in restoration efforts is spreading the word of what needs to be done and why. And this is where the beer comes in — or at least starts to.

At the pub, the beer offers more than just refreshment. Last summer, the Pelican Pub and Brewery added the Silverspot IPA to their lineup to celebrate the struggling butterfly, donating a portion of the proceeds to fund conservation efforts. The Oregon silverspot story can be found on every bottle.