DoD Biodiversity Conservation Handbook
Chapters:Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11IntroductionCase StudiesAcknowledgements
Chapter 6 Case Studies

Endangered Species: Defense Fuel Support Point

Conservation of the Palos Verde Blue Butterfly

The Palos Verdes blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis) (PVBB) is a postage stamp-sized butterfly that was described in 1977. It has only been found in a relatively small area in the Palos Verdes peninsula, in southern Los Angeles County, California. Due to its geographic isolation and declining abundance, it was listed as an endangered species in 1980. In spite of this, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes bulldozed the last known site for the butterfly in 1983 to establish a baseball diamond. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (usfws) lost its case against the City of Rancho Palos Verdes for knowingly destroying the last known population, the U.S. Congress amended the Endangered Species Act to allow prosecution of not only individuals, but also municipalities and other entities. This is the butterfly that rewrote the Endangered Species Act.

In 1994, eleven years after it was thought extinct, a tiny relict population of approximately 65 individuals was discovered on the Defense Fuel Support Point, San Pedro, a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) site which supplies aircraft and marine fuel to 28 military bases and activities in California, Arizona, and Nevada. The butterfly's coastal scrub habitat on the Palos Verdes peninsula has been shrinking under pressure from urban development, and the dla facility is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, businesses, schools, playgrounds, a golf course, a regional park, a cemetery, and an oil refinery. Other factors in the decline of the habitat include weed control, off-road vehicle use, and non-native plant invasion.

The DLA's Response to the Discovery

The rediscovery of the PVBB triggered one of the most successful recovery efforts for an endangered species in the history of the Department of Defense.

The DLA quickly recognized that the protection of this species was not only a legal responsibility but that its recovery could potentially engender great public support for the DLA mission on the Palos Verdes peninsula and for the Department of Defense in general. Consequently, the DLA, U.S. Navy, and the Department of Defense began to work toward the recovery of the species, along with a team of partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of California, Riverside, the Urban Wildlands Group, Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, Moorpark College, America's Teaching Zoo, and the Soil Ecology Restoration Group at San Diego State University.


Restoration of habitat was an important first step in recovery, especially the reestablishment of healthy stands of the butterfly's host plants, locoweed and deerweed. These are cultivated in a special nursery run by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. The Conservancy uses the plants and its open space as a medium for teaching local school children and as a place for volunteers from the local community to help with nursery operations and habitat restoration. This is a “good neighbor” situation that allows the Defense Fuel Support Point to assist with projects in its local community.

Surveys are another important component of the pvbb conservation. Annual surveys for adult butterflies have revealed that conservation efforts are being effective, as the population has grown and is relatively stable. Additionally, locating and mapping of pvbb host plants has allowed for identification of potentially important habitat and for more informed land management decisions. Captive rearing soon became another important part of the recovery program. Through an agreement with UCLA, and in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, scientists from the University of California–Los Angeles Geography Department began overseeing a captive butterfly rearing program. The primary site is situated at Defense Fuel Support Point San Pedro, and a secondary captive rearing site is with the Butterfly Project of The Urban Wildlands Group at America's Teaching Zoo. Both sites are funded through the dla and the U.S. Navy.

A recent shift in the care and handling of the butterflies, involving hand feeding adults by volunteers and interns with specialty “deerweed” honey water artificial nectar, has resulted in an explosion of the captive rearing stock over the past two seasons from 186 to 4,700. This will allow for an unprecedented reintroduction to several areas over its original habitat on the Palos Verdes peninsula in the spring of 2008.

In addition, the restoration efforts have provided many learning and research opportunities for both the general public and university students and faculty. The dod and dla have also received an unprecedented amount of positive publicity for the work they have done to recover the pvbb.

Keys to Success

  • Early and conscientious attention to the issue once it was recognized
  • Cooperative conservation: recruitment of a wide-ranging team of partners to work together for the recovery of the species
  • Successful funding to support the recovery programs
  • Cost-sharing initiatives, including in-kind services, from partners
  • Positive and highly effective public affairs support throughout the project


The DLA achieved great success in conserving biological diversity in a highly degraded habitat and did so in a way that was completely compatible with its primary military mission of providing supply support, and technical and logistics services to the U.S. military services and several federal civilian agencies. The DLA has forged a model for government and private efforts to conserve endangered species.

© Copyright 2008. NatureServe.

About This Case Study's Author
By Jana Johnson
Moorpark College
Moorpark, California


Albert Owen
Naval Facilities Engineering
Command, Southwest
San Diego, California
Phone: (619) 532-3775

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