Will Work For Free
A Blog About My Experiences in Volunteer Work

Working to Protect the Green Hairstreak Butterfly with Nature in the City

In the neighborhoods around 14th Ave and Pacheco St there is a hidden effort to preserve a remnant of native ecology. Every month workers come together and offer their time for free to give a rare butterfly a fighting chance in a landscape dominated by the urban sprawl of human life. In these hill-side neighborhoods, below what is commonly refered to as the Rocky Outcrop, several empty parcels of land owned by the city have been handed over to the non-profit organization, Nature in the City. These small plots of land which had until recently been nothing but small islands full of ice plant have been turned into havens for the Green Hairstreak Butterfly.

This small and rare butterfly is native to the area and needs the help of humans to reclaim its mating and breeding grounds. During the 1950s and 1960s ice plant was put in on almost every vacant piece of sandy terrain to prevent the sand from blowing about. Now, volunteer workers are tearing out the ice plant and planting the native Coastal Buckwheat. This little dime-sized green butterfly needs the low-lying protection of the buckwheat to lay its eggs.

Every third Saturday of the month, site stewards of the five locations around the neighborhood meet with volunteers at the corner of 14th Ave and Pacheco at 10 in the morning. Snacks are available and there is a small socialization period before stewards break up the volunteer crew and take them to the separate sites.

The effort extends to the neighborhood. Mike Belcher, a retired Fire Fighter from Station 12 in San Francisco has been a resident of the city his entire life. As one neighbor exits her house, asking what the crew is up to; he turns to her with a very friendly demeanor and tells her the goal of the labor. It is hard to find someone unsympathetic to the idea of turning an unused triangle of land at the intersection of two streets into a sanctuary for a rare butterfly. Not only will this provide a habitat for the butterfly, he explains, but if you would like we can work with you and turn your own yard into a sanctuary by getting you some Coastal Buckwheat to plant on your own. This idea has appealed to many neighbors and the popularity is spreading. After all, you don’t want to be the only one on the block who hasn’t created a butterfly habitat in your yard.

Volunteer work includes the constant removal of weeds and invasive grasses working to cover the buckwheat, planting new buckwheat, tearing out ice plant and keeping the potential breeding zones free of obstacles for the butterfly. Like other projects of a similar nature, the crowd it draws is a pleasant one. Friendly and down to earth people dominate the lineup. Eager to work and happy to help is the vibe.


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