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Bombs, Beavers And Butterfly Biologists: What Fort Bragg Teaches Us About Saving A Species

Fort Bragg provides an ideal environment for the St. Francis Satry, a critically endangered species of butterfly.
Courtesy of Nick Haddad
Haddad (left) and Ball (right) are long-time collaborators at Fort Bragg.

Of all federal agencies, the Department of Defense manages the highest density of threatened and endangered species, more than even the National Park Service. The special relationship between the Pentagon and environmentalist organizations originates at Fort Bragg.  

There, biologists and military officials work together to save the St. Francis Satyr — one of the world’s rarest butterflies — by starting fires and flooding the landscape. Disturbance is necessary to create habitat for the thumbnail-sized butterflies. In fact, the butterfly thrives on the artillery range.

Credit Brian Hudgens / Wikimedia
The St. Francis Satyr's worldwide habitat totals 200 acres, all at Fort Bragg and the surrounding area.

To learn more about how artillery specialists take part in conservation, guest host Anita Rao talks with Nick Haddad, a butterfly expert and longtime collaborator with the base, about his book “The Last Butterflies: A Scientist’s Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature” (Princeton University Press 2019) Haddad is joined by Brian Ball, Fort Bragg’s St. Francis Satyr program manager, and Fort Bragg Range Operations Training Lands Coordinator Jon Garrow.

Above: Artillery training at Fort Bragg ignites the wildfires necessary for creating the St. Francis Satyr's grassy wetland habitat.

Note: This program originally aired July 31, 2019.

Grant Holub-Moorman coordinates events and North Carolina outreach for WUNC, including a monthly trivia night. He is a founding member of Embodied and a former producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
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