Barry Bidwell can still pinpoint the day when his passion for butterflies began. He remembers playing outside as a boy of only seven or eight years old one summer day in Oregon, and becoming fascinated while watching a butterfly flit against the blue sky. That moment led to a lifelong study of butterflies. He went on to learn to identify that particular species and countless others. “Some butterflies buzz by so quickly you can hardly see them,” he explained. “And then some flit and float as that one did.”
Barry moved to Washington while he was still in grade school and, much later as an adult, attended a Nature Conservancy field trip with Fayette Krause, one of the original employees of The Nature Conservancy in Washington. “I told Fayette I’d be interested in volunteering,” he recalled.
Barry began volunteering for the Conservancy in 1985, working to restore prairies in South Puget Sound that offered habitat for the small but bright red and orange Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, as well as other species hovering on the edge of extinction. In more than 20 years of service, he and other volunteers have reclaimed hundreds of acres of prairie from the invasive Scotch broom plant and created a home for Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies and other wildlife.
Eventually, Barry’s wife Darlene joined him in volunteering weekly on the prairie with a group of other dedicated volunteers. “Darlene is the Queen of Seed Cleaning," claims Barry when describing his wife’s skill and favorite volunteer task during the winter months. “I think it’s her patience that makes her so good at that.”
Barry and Darlene have volunteered more than 4,000 hours for the Conservancy since 2007 alone. They were a big part of our successful 2011 volunteer year. “There’s a satisfaction in seeing the difference volunteers make in the landscape. We can actually see what we’ve done and it’s very obvious.”
In 2011, The Nature Conservancy transferred its South Sound prairie restoration program to the Center for Natural Lands Management, a nonprofit that shares the Conservancy’s values of commitment to protecting endangered species and habitat through collaborative conservation work. Barry and Darlene continue their volunteer work on the South Sound prairies. They are there each spring to witness the bloom of native wildflowers as a reward for their years of work.
January 05, 2012