Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 5–6, pp 929–941 | Cite as

Assessing a farmland set-aside conservation program for an endangered butterfly: USDA State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) for the Karner blue butterfly

  • Paula Kleintjes Neff
  • Christina Locke
  • Eric Lee-Mӓder


Private lands provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, but only recently have farm-based conservation programs focused on at-risk, invertebrate species. The USDA Conservation Reserve Program State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (CRP-SAFE) is one of the first federal programs to do so with a Wisconsin-based initiative for the US federally endangered Karner blue butterfly (KBB). This study is the first to evaluate how well the KBB-SAFE provides suitable habitat for the Karner and other butterflies. It also provides a critical foundation for better understanding the potential of new USDA programs that create pollinator habitat including for declining species such as the Monarch butterfly. Here we compare data (2009–2014) on assemblages of grassland communities, blooming floral resource availability, and abundance and richness of butterflies, between KBB-SAFE and native prairie sites. We found that KBB-SAFE and native sites had distinctly different forb species assemblages, with SAFE sites having fewer native blooming species available during the first flight of the KBB yet similar availability during second flight. Butterfly abundance was ultimately greater on native sites compared to SAFE sites, but richness was comparable between sites. We conclude that KBB-SAFE can provide habitat for many grassland species, and serve as surrogate KBB habitat. We provide straightforward management recommendations designed to better meet the needs of the Karner blue and other sensitive butterfly species and we provide further evidence that increased abundance and richness of native forbs and grasses on land formerly used for agriculture can provide habitat for butterflies adapted to early successional habitats.


Butterfly richness Endangered butterfly Butterfly conservation Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands Native seed mixes Karner blue butterfly Lycaeides melissa samuelis 



We are grateful for the support of USDA FSA and NRCS staff throughout the project: Andrew Bourget, Ryan Galbreith, Terri Pollei Klein, Jennifer Roetter and John Sippl; the landowners who graciously allowed us to do research on their property; the West Wisconsin Land Trust staff Rick Remington and Jane Anklam, and WDNR KBB Recovery Coordinator Robert Hess. We also thank the following UW-Eau Claire undergraduates for their field work assistance: Jack Eaton, Jacob Henden, David Hon, Aaron Irber, Matt Morris, Otto Renner, Mark Sutton, Brianna Stanton, Chase Stoffel, Alexandra Tworek and Joseph Weirich. We thank Evan Weiher for analytical assistance, the Prairie Biotic Research, Inc. Small Grant Program and the UW-Eau Claire Office of Research and Sponsored Projects Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates Program. We also appreciate the constructive feedback offered by our anonymous reviewers.


Funding was provided by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire ORSP and Prairie Biotic Research, Inc.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10841_2017_32_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (538 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 538 KB)


  1. Andow DA, Baker PJ, Lane CP (1994) Karner Blue butterfly: a symbol of a vanishing landscape. Misc. Publ. 84-1994 Minnesota Agric. Expt. Station, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, p 222Google Scholar
  2. Aviron S, Nitsch H, Jeanneret P, Buholzer S, Luka H, Pfiffner L, Pozzi S, Schüpbach B, Walter T, Herzog F (2009) Ecological cross compliance promotes farmland biodiversity in Switzerland. Front Ecol Environ 7:247–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bennett AB, Meehan TD, Gratton C, Isaacs R (2014) Modeling pollinator community response to contrasting bioenergy scenarios. PLoS ONE 9(11):e110676CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Berg A, Ahrné K, Öckinger E, Svensson R, Wissman J (2013) Butterflies in semi-natural pastures and powerline corridors—effects of flower richness, management, and structural vegetation characteristic. Insect Conserv Divers 6:639–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blauuw BR, Isaacs R (2014) Flower plantings increase wild bee abundance and the pollination services provide to pollination-dependent crops. J Appl Ecol 51:890–898CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bleser CA (1993) Status survey, management and monitoring activities for the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) in Wisconsin. Final Report submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, p. 86Google Scholar
  7. Bried J, Pellet J (2012) Optimal design of butterfly occupancy surveys and testing if occupancy converts to abundance for sparse populations. J Insect Conserv 16:489–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bright JA, Morris AJ, Field RH, Cooke AI, Grice PV, Walker LK, Fern J, Peach WJ (2015) Higher-tier agri-environment scheme enhances breeding densities of some priority farmland birds in England. Agric Ecosyst Environ 203:69–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bubová T, Vrabec V, Kulma M, Nowicki P (2015) Land management impacts on European butterflies of conservation concern: a review. J Insect Conserv 19:805–821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Corbet SA (1995) Insects, plants and succession: advantages of long-term set-aside. Agric Ecosyst Environ 53:201–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Daniels J (2009) Cooperative conservation efforts to help recover an endangered south Florida butterfly. Insect Conserv Divers 2:62–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis JD, Debinski DM, Danielson BJ (2007) Local and landscape effects on the butterfly community in fragmented Midwest USA prairie habitats. Landscape Ecol 22:1341–1354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davros N, Debinski D, Reeder K, Hohman W (2006) Butterflies and continuous reserve program filter strips: landscape considerations. Wildl Soc Bull 34:936–943CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Doxon E, Carroll J (2007) Vegetative and invertebrate community characteristics of Conservation Reserve Program Fields Relative to Gamebirds in Western Kansas. Am Midl Nat 158:243–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Farrand DT, Ryan MR (2005) Impact of conservation reserve program on wildlife conservation in the Midwest. In: Haughfler J (ed) Fish and wildlife benefits from Farm Bill programs: update 2000–2005. The Wildlife Society, Washington, D.C., pp 41–62Google Scholar
  16. Garibaldi L, Carvalheiro L, Leonhardt S, Aizen M, Blaauw B, Isaacs R, Kuhlmann M, Kleijn D, Klein A, Kremen C, Morandin L, Scheper J, Winfree R (2014) From research to action: enhancing crop yield through wild pollinators. Front Ecol Environ 12:439–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Griffin S, Bruninga-Socolar B, Kerr M. Gibbs J, Winfree R (2017) Wild bee community change over a 26-year chronosequence of restored tallgrass prairie. Restor Ecol. Google Scholar
  18. Grundel R, Pavlovic N, Sulzman CL (2000) Nectar plant selection by the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Am Midl Nat 144:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Haack R (1993) The endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae): biology, management considerations, and data gaps, pp 83–100. In: Gillespie AR, Parker GR, Pope, PE, Rink G (eds) Proceedings of the 9th Central Hardwood Forest Conference; Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-161. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment StationGoogle Scholar
  20. Hardman CJ, Norris TD, Nevard BH, Potts SG (2016) Delivery of floral resources and pollination services on farmland under three different wildlife-friendly schemes. Agric Ecosyst Environ 220:142–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harmon-Threatt AN, Hendrix SD (2015) Prairie restorations and bees: the potential ability of seed mixes to foster native bee communities. Basic Appl Ecol 16:64–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heard L, Allen A, Best L, Brady S, Burger W, Esser J, Hackett E, Johnson D, Pederson R, Reynolds R, Rewa C, Ryan M, Molleur R, Buck P (2000) A comprehensive review of Farm Bill contributions to wildlife conservation, 1985–2000. In: Hohman WL, Halloum DJ (eds) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wildlife Habitat Management Institute, Technical Report USDA/NRCS/WHMI-2000Google Scholar
  23. Hess R, Hess A (2015) Conserving Karner Blue butterflies in Wisconsin: a development of management techniques. Am Entomol 61:96–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Holm S (1979) A simple sequentially rejective multiple test procedure. Scand J Stat 6:65–70Google Scholar
  25. Jones-Farrand DT, Johnson DH, Burger LW, Ryan MR (2007) Grassland establishment for wildlife conservation, pp 25–43. In: Haufler J (ed) Wildlife response to Farm Bill conservation practices. Tech review 07-1, The Wildlife Society Washington, D.C., USAGoogle Scholar
  26. Kleintjes Neff P, Mader E (2013) CRP-SAFE for Karner Blue Butterflies: recommendations for Wisconsin Landowners and Conservationists. Pollinator Habitat Handbook Series. The Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, PortlandGoogle Scholar
  27. Kleintjes Neff P, Fettig S, Van Overbeke D (2007) Variable response of butterflies and vegetation to elk herbivory: an exclosure experiment in ponderosa pine and aspen-mixed conifer forests. Southwest Nat 52:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kremen C, M’Gonigle L (2015) Small scale restoration in intensive agricultural landscapes supports more specialized and less mobile species. J Appl Ecol 52:602–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McCune B, Grace J (2002) Analysis of ecological communities. MjM software, Gleneden BeachGoogle Scholar
  30. Nilsson S, Franzén M, Jönsson E (2008) Long term land use change and extinction of specialized butterflies. Insect Conserv Divers 1:197–207Google Scholar
  31. Oksanen J, Blanchet F, Kindt R, Legendre P, Minchin P, O’Hara R, Simpson G, Solymos P, Stevens M, Wagner H (2013) Vegan: community ecology package. R package version 2.0-10.
  32. Pleasants J (2016) Milkweed restoration in the Midwest for Monarch butterfly recovery: estimates of milkweeds lost, milkweeds remaining and milkweeds that must be added to increase the monarch population. Insect Conserv Divers. Google Scholar
  33. Pollard E, Yates T (1993) Monitoring butterflies for ecology and conservation; The British Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Pywell RF, Warman EA, Sparks TH, Greatorex-Davies JN, Walker KJ, Meek WR, Carvell WR, Petit S, Firbank LG (2004) Assessing habitat quality for butterflies on intensively managed arable farmland. Biol Conserv 118:313–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. R Development Core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  36. Ribic C, Guzy M, Sample D (2009) Grassland bird use of remnant prairie and conservation reserve program fields in an agricultural landscape in Wisconsin. Am Midl Nat 161:110–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rodriguez SL, Peterson MN, Cubbag FW, Sills EO, Bondell HD (2012) Private landowner interest in market-based incentive programs for endangered species habitat conservation. Wildl Soc Bull 36:469–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shepherd S, Debinski D (2005) Evaluation of isolated and integrated prairie reconstructions as habitat for prairie butterflies. Biol Conserv 126:51–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sorice M, Oh C, Gartner T, Snieckus M, Johnson R, Donlan C (2013) Increasing participation in incentive programs for biodiversity conservation. Ecol Appl 23:1146–1155CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Swengel A, Swengel S (1996) Factors affecting abundance of adult Karner blues (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in Wisconsin Surveys 1987–95. Great Lakes Entomol 29:93–105Google Scholar
  41. Thomas A (2014) Benefits of the state acres for wildlife enhancement practice for bird populations in Kansas. M.S. Thesis. Kansas State University, pp 52Google Scholar
  42. Tschumi M, Albrecht M, Bärtschia C, Collatz J, Entling M, Jacota K (2016) Perennial, species-rich wildflower strips enhance pest control and crop yield. Agric Ecosyst Environ 220:97–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Turner JF, Rylander JC (1998) The Private Lands Challenge: integrating biodiversity conservation and private property. In: Shogren JF (ed) Private property and the endangered species act. University of Texas Press, Austin, pp 92–137Google Scholar
  44. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2003) Final Recovery Plan for the Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, p. 273Google Scholar
  45. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2009) Our Endangered Species Program and how it works with landowners. Accessed 23 August 2016
  46. USDA Farm Service Agency (2001) The Conservation Reserve Program PA-1603.
  47. USDA Farm Service Agency (2008) Conservation Reserve Program State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Approved Projects, FACT sheet.
  48. USDA Farm Service Agency (2011) Karner Blue Butterfly SAFE fact sheet.
  49. USDA Farm Service Agency (2013) Conservation Reserve Program State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Approved Projects, FACT sheet, revised May 2013.
  50. USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (2007) Using NatureServ Information to Assess Conservation Practice Effects on At-Risk Species Conservation Assessment Effects Project (CEAP) science note.
  51. USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (2008) Using Farm bill programs for pollinators. Biology Tech. Note No. 78Google Scholar
  52. USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (2009) Web Soil Survey, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin.
  53. USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (2015a) Using 2014 Farm Bill programs for pollinator conservation. Biology Tech. Note No.78, 2nd ednGoogle Scholar
  54. USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (2015b) Wisconsin Conservation Planning Tools—CRP WI—Seed Calculator CUSTOM Mix—2015 accessible
  55. Van Overbeke D, Kleintjes Neff P, Fettig S (2007) Potentilla fruticosa (Rosaceae) as a nectar plant for butterflies. J Lepidop Soc 61:222–227Google Scholar
  56. Wagner DL (2005) Caterpillars of Eastern North America. A guide to their identification and natural history. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  57. Wisconsin DNR (2008). Karner Blue Butterfly High Potential Range Regulatory Range Map. Forest Landscape Ecology Lab University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  58. Woodcock B, Savage J, Bullock J, Nowakowski M, Orr R, Tallowin J, Powell R (2014) Enhancing floral resources for pollinators in productive agricultural grasslands. Biol Conserv 171:44–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wratten S, Gillespie M, Decourtye A, Mader E, Desneux N (2012) Pollinator habitat enhancement: benefit to other ecosystem services. Agric Ecol Environ 159:112–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zar J (1984) Biostatistical analysis. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Wisconsin-Eau ClaireEau ClaireUSA
  2. 2.MadisonUSA
  3. 3.Xerces Society for Invertebrate ConservationSalish Sea Regional OfficeWhidbey IslandUSA

Personalised recommendations