Cattle and the Military Team Up to Protect Butterflies and the Prairie

Butterflies, cattle, and the military may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but for native prairies — some of the most threatened habitats in the world — the trio are closely connected. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the improbable pairing of cattle grazing and native prairie conservation is not only compatible, but mutually beneficial. Carefully managed grazing regimes can improve weed control and plant health, help re-establish native plants, and increase plant diversity compared with an unmanaged system. However, until now no systematic study has attempted to track the impacts of managed grazing on native prairie plant communities in Western Washington. Scientists at Washington State University, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Center for Natural Lands Management, have established just such a study in order to see how “working landscapes” might support habitat conservation goals. Military backing In Washington State, much of the only remaining native prairie lands, are found in Southern Puget Sound  including on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Thurston County. These prairies support a diverse array of plant and animal species at risk for extinction. These include the rare, native golden paintbrush, the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, and the Mazama pocket gopher, which was rec

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