Mazama Pocket Gopher

Mazama pocket gophers are an important component in South Sound prairies. While still found in Thurston and Pierce Counties, they are globally rare and considered threatened with extinction by the State of Washington.
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Center for Natural
Lands Management
South Sound Prairies Program
120 Union Ave SE #215
Olympia, WA 98501
Main line: 360-464-1024

Patrick Dunn
South Puget Sound 
Program Director


Sanders Freed
Thurston County Program Manager


Sarah Hamman
Prairie Conservation Science
Program Manager


Mason McKinley
Joint Base Lewis-McChord 
Program Manager


Sierra Smith
Conservation Nursery Program Manager


Elspeth Hilton Kim
Cooperative Conservation Program Manager


Joy Hochstein
Grants Administrator


Technical Information

Cascadia Prairie Oak Partnership brings together professional conservationists and restorationists from throughout the Northwest. If you would like to reference scientific papers about prairies or network with the professional conservation community please contact Elspeth Hilton Kim.

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Rare Species Granted Federal Protection

The Taylor's checkerspot butterfly is now federally endangered (photo: Rod Gilbert).Two prairie species found in Thurston County and throughout the Cascadia region, the streaked horned lark and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, are now protected under the Endangered Species Act. On October 2nd, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the listings, designating the lark threatened and the checkerspot butterfly endangered. This designation is evidence of the decline in prairie habitat and its associated species in the region.

Though the listings may present challenges to Thurston County, the work by CNLM’s South Sound Program and its partners to conserve habitat and recover rare species like these provides resources and assistance to the community, reducing burdens presented by the protection of these species.

What is CNLM doing to help the species and the community?

  • Partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Defense, and Interior to initiate the Sentinel Landscape Project and bring funding and conservation incentives to the community.
  • Restoration of protected lands, improving existing habitat for these rare species.      
  • Protection of rare prairie habitat in perpetuity through land purchases, including the recent protection of one of eleven populations of Taylor's checkerspot, as well as an additional site for reintroduction.
  • Reintroduction of Taylor's checkerspot butterflies to restored habitat to increase population and distribution, in collaboration with Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Preservation of agricultural lands, supporting ranchers whose stewardship has improved their working lands for both their stock and rare prairie species, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
  • Providing regulatory certainty to landowners by sharing scientific information and management techniques with Thurston County for their Habitat Conservation Plan.

The streaked horned lark is now federally threatened (photo: Rod Gilbert).The recovery of these two species is critical to the conservation of prairies, which shaped the history and character of the South Sound region. Native Americans used fire to maintain prairies for over 10,000 years and settlers to the area used the open prairies to raise livestock.  Joint Base Lewis-McChord has found that native grasslands provide the best training environment for our soldiers. Today, farmers use grazing as a way to raise livestock and maintain the prairies, and protected conservation sites such as Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve offer an open landscape for the community to enjoy. CNLM strives to provide benefits to the community while conserving some of the rarest species and habitats in the country – the prairies of South Sound.

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