Karner Blue Butterfly Survey

Working to Protect Endangered Species


    Dawda, Mann, Mulcahy, and Sadler PLC


    Muskegon County, MI

Key Elements

    Vegetation and Natural Community Surveys
  • Floristic Quality Assessment
  • Ecological Impact Assessment and Minimization
  • Design Team Collaboration
  • Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Assessment
  • Karner Blue Butterfly Multi-Year and Multi-Seasonal Field Surveys
  • Incidental Take Evaluation
  • Mitigation Plan Development
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), and Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) coordination
  • Application for Certificate of Inclusion under the MDNR Habitat Conservation Plan

A commercial development was planned for a site in Muskegon County, Michigan, with known Karner blue butterfly (KBB) (Lycaides melissa samuelis) habitat.  Endangered species survey and management actions were required so that the KBB and the habitat upon which they depend in this region were preserved.

GEI was contracted by Dawda, Mann, Mulcahy & Sadler, PLC to conduct an assessment of potential KBB (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) presence on or near the subject +30acre property located in Whitehall Township, Muskegon County, Michigan. The KBB is a federally endangered species with recorded populations near the project area.  The first task completed included a vegetation community assessment focused on the identification of habitat suitable to support native threatened and endangered species. Following the initial habitat assessment, a Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) was conducted to identify potential protected species and to evaluate the ecological quality of habitats on the site.

Portions of the site were comprised of a high-quality oak-pine barrens natural community. Dominant tree species included black oak (Quercus velutina), white oak (Q. alba), and various pines (Pinus spp.).  The trees exhibited a diverse age structure, including several large, wide-canopied oaks that indicated the historic presence of oak-pine barrens or similar habitats on the site.  The ground layer was dominated by Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), June grass (Koeleria macrantha), broom sedge (Andropogon virginicus), and spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa).  The ground layer also contained significant populations of sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) and lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), hairy bush clover (Lespedeza hirta), and horsemint (Monarda punctata). Several uncommon species characteristic of high-quality oak-pine barrens were observed, including prickly-pear (Opuntia humifusa), racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama), hyssop hedge nettle (Stachys hyssopifolia), and goat’s rue (Tephrosia virginiana).

Surrounding the oak-pine barrens on site were areas of early-successional northern dry-mesic forest. Openings within the canopy contained populations of wild lupine (Lupinus perennis).  The areas of northern dry-mesic forest likely developed during a period of fire suppression within the oak-pine barren habitat.

After completing a multi-seasonal habitat assessment, the oak-pine barrens habitat was found to have a native species richness of 67 (92 total species), a native mean C of 4.4, and a native FQI of 36.2.  The northern dry-mesic forest had a native species richness of 49 (68 total species), a native mean C of 4.1, and a native FQI of 28.4.

Consultation with the MNFI resulted in records for 13 protected species within the vicinity of the project site. These included the Missouri rock-cress (Arabis missouriensis var. deamii), dusted skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna), Hill’s thistle (Cirsium hillii), prairie warbler (Dendroica discolor), Persius dusky wing (Erynnis persius persius), prairie smoke (Geum triflorum), frosted elfin (Incisalia irus), furrowed flax (Linum sulcatum), Karner blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), pinetree cricket (Oecanthus pini), Sprague’s pygarctia (Pygarctia spraguei), eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus), and eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina).

After the natural community assessments were completed, it was determined that the KBB had potential to be utilizing the on-site habitat.  The site contained the resources and natural communities necessary to support KBB through all stages of their life cycle.  Multi-year, multi-seasonal surveys were then conducted by GEI biologists for the KBB during the appropriate flight survey times for this bivoltine species. KBB field surveys were conducted in accordance with the MNFI survey protocol, which has been adapted from the Wisconsin Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) Level 2 – KBB Presence/Absence Monitoring Protocol.

During field surveys, 11 butterfly species were observed on site, including the KBB, which was observed in a patch of nectar-bearing and flowering forbs.  GEI worked with the client on an evaluation of whether potential development and permanent habitat alteration of the site would likely result in a potential “take” of KBB as defined under the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. Sections 1531-1544), as amended.  After considerable coordination with MNFI, MDNR, and USFWS staff, a mitigation plan was developed that would allow the development to occur under a Certificate of Inclusion to the MDNR KBB HCP.  On-site habitat avoidance and preservation measures as well as off-site habitat acquisition and preservation mitigation measures were proposed and approved by the MDNR and USFWS in order to support the current and future populations of KBB in the project vicinity.


butterfly species observed


acres of butterfly occupied habitat identified


wild lupine (Karner blue host plant) relocated

Have a project in mind?

Learn more about how we can help you.