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A New Partner Takes the Lead in the South Sound Prairies

As the Center for Natural Land Management takes the reins of the Conservancy's South Sound Prairies program, Pat Dunn and his dedicated staff will continue to lead on-the-ground conservation work.

It’s said that if a butterfly lands on you, it will bring you good luck.

In the 17 years that Pat Dunn has worked for The Nature Conservancy in Washington, it’s safe to say he’s returned the favor.

Nearly two decades ago, Pat arrived in Washington to start the Conservancy’s first program in the South Puget Sound Prairies. He recalls bringing his pregnant wife, Maria, to the prairies to view the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly—now one of the rarest species in the state. “It was just butterfly after butterfly. There were thousands,” Pat said.

But they were in trouble; the tiny, red and orange Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly has faced massive declines. Restoring its habitat and bringing it back from the brink of extinction has been one of the Conservancy’s goals in the South Sound, and Pat has seen the work pay off.

“Seeing the butterflies come back has been a wonderful thing,” he said.

Now the South Sound Program is entering a new era. This summer, the Conservancy is transferring this conservation program to the Center for Natural Lands Management, a nonprofit that shares our values of conservation.

“We’re thrilled to have found an organization that shares our commitment to protecting endangered species and habitat through collaborative conservation work, and brings a dynamic new partner into Washington’s conservation community,” said Karen Anderson, the Conservancy’s Washington director.

The decision was a strategic one. As the Conservancy continues to evolve and seeks to solve new conservation challenges, we have to make choices about how to use our limited resources. “By transferring the South Sound program to the Center for Natural Land Management, we can ensure that the important work of protecting and restoring this special landscape will continue,” Anderson said.

The prairies and oak woodlands of South Puget Sound are some of the rarest habitat in the state. In the past 17 years, the Conservancy has worked with volunteers and partners to save thousands of acres of this unique region.

We’ve brought together a conservation community that’s protecting new preserves, restoring lands and looking out for creatures like the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. This network of government agencies and nonprofits is sharing strategies in conservation from the Willamette Valley to British Columbia.

The core of the program—preserving and restoring rare habitats and species--will stay the same as CNLM takes the reins this summer. And Pat Dunn and his dedicated staff in will continue to lead conservation work started 17 years ago.

There are plenty of statistics that illustrate the conservation accomplishments that the Conservancy has achieved in South Puget Sound. But Pat will tell you, facts and figures don’t tell the whole story. Memories fill in the gaps.

Pat remembers the first time he visited Glacial Heritage Preserve in Thurston County. He took a tour with a county employee and found the area so thick with Scotch broom, an invasive weed, that they got lost. “There were nice patches of prairie among the broom, and I suggested that there was a Scotch broom problem and they should do something about it.”

A few years later Pat found funds to help Thurston County restore that preserve. The South Sound Program mustered an army of volunteers as well as staff to wrench out Scotch broom and lovingly nurture native prairie plants. Today Glacial Heritage Preserve is home to 700 acres of quality prairie land that guests can visit each year on Prairie Appreciation Day, when it’s flush with colorful wildflowers.

It’s one of many memories that tell the story of the Conservancy’s work in the South Sound. As the Center for Natural Lands Management takes the lead, there will be more to come.

The Center for Natural Lands Management is a nonprofit dedicated to conserving native species, their habitat and functioning ecosystems. They currently manage more than 34,000 acres distributed over more than 70 wildlife preserves. This includes several preserves which the Center obtained from the Conservancy in California.

“We’re looking forward to working in this rare environment,” said David Brunner, the center’s Executive Director. “The South Sound Program is first and foremost a constellation of impassioned restoration scientists and volunteers, intent on developing the necessary information and experience to bring fragile and diminished ecosystems back into function. We share this focus, and recognize the synergy in combining our expertise and experience.”
 

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