$600K to fund projects at three national parks

DARRINGTON — Butterflies in the North Cascade Range are among the beneficiaries of more than $600,000 given to three national parks in Washington.

Each year Washington’s National Park Fund collects donations to help with projects in the North Cascades, Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks. This year’s $602,000 contribution was a record.

The money is earmarked for more than 20 projects, including providing an education ranger at Mount Rainier National Park and replacing a nature trail bridge in the Olympic National Park.

For the North Cascades, some of the money will go into a long-term monitoring project in which hikers and park enthusiasts volunteer to help track butterfly populations in alpine meadows. Monitoring also is done in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and other areas.

The information helps scientists because butterflies can be indicators of climate change, said Laurie Ward, executive director of Washington’s National Park Fund.

Air temperature influences butterfly growth, geographic distribution and flowering patterns of their host plants, according to a description of the butterfly project.

The volunteers survey butterflies and host plants along permanent survey routes once a week between snow melt and snow fall.

Ward said the private money raised for parks each year focuses on advancing science and research, strengthening programs for youth and families, improving the experiences of visitors and expanding the base of volunteers.

It also helps park rangers fill unmet needs.

“They need it,” Ward said. “They are doing more with less and they do it with smiles.”

Eric Stevick: 425-3393-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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