Butterflies and habitat corridors

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Thu Jun 17 06:15:17 EDT 1999

I support corridors.  In fact I am busily trying to preserve a 
"corridor" in a 50 acre plot that is slated for development.  The 
developers (needing to maintain a certain amount of "open space") are 
not touching a rather ordinary second growth woodland but were planning 
to develop an "abandoned" road easement which had become an important 
butterfly, bird and mammal corridor. 

I bet that list readers think that New Jersey is already a pretty 
developed place and why bother.  In fact, New Jersey has slightly more 
forest now than it did 100 years ago (about 48% vs 42%). The endangered 
habitat here is "open country", "grassland", "pasture", "waste land", 
"abandoned fields", "old fields".  Nobody has been interested in 
protecting those habitats. Planning Boards are quite content to have 
these turned to "productive" use.  The State is worried about protecting 
farmland and has quite an aggressive program, and there is a lot of 
farmland still active in NJ. But former farmland seems of little 

Henslow's and Grasshopper Sparrows are the flagship species of these 
habitats.  I'm sure you get the picture (if you don't, these are 
equivalent to micros in bird-dom with apologies to micro-enthusiasts).  

Actually---surprise of surprises---our town planning board (highly 
pro-development) did request that the builder protect the corridor (a 
minimum setback of 125 feet). because of Leonard's Skipper (Hesperia 
leonardus). They actually responded better to the name Leonardus 
Skipper---it sounded more important than Leonard (maybe if we had a 
Leonard on the planning board it would have made a difference). 

The corridor has only been in place 12 years (after cutting an access 
road easement through 40 year old second growth forest). But that 
opening (less than 100 foot wide) was extremely attractive to 
Butterflies with over 60 species recorded, and Leonardus Skipper 
colonized it within 2 years of the opening---which is amazing since it 
is a highly local butterfly in NJ (a candidate for Threatened status 
with only six known colonies). 

By the way, our State wetland preservation was impotent to protect a 
small wetland on the site.  The builder applied for and was granted a 
"stream encroachment" permit. 

Mike Gochfeld

Grasshopper Sparrow is Ammodramus savannarum and Henslow's is A. 
henslowi (if they haven't changed it while I wasn't looking). 

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