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Nature Night: How Inmates Are Helping Revive an Endangered Oregon Butterfly
Federally endangered Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies were once abundant in the inland prairies of the Pacific Northwest. Almost two centuries of agricultural and urban growth have crowded out the butterflies, destroying 99 percent of their native habitats. However, a surprising partnership between the Oregon Zoo and the Washington and Oregon Departments of Corrections have resulted in the transformation of these landscapes as tens of thousands of captive-reared butterflies have been released into the wild – and in the transformation of lives for the women who work with this delicate species.
At this Nature Night, meet Oregon Zoo keeper Ronda Naseth, who has been entrenched in this conservation work alongside adults in custody at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility since 2017. Learn how the groundbreaking program at CCCF – the first of its kind dedicated to the rearing of the Oregon population of the Taylor’s Checkerspot, and the first butterfly conservation program to be housed in a medium security prison – came to be.
Find out what the program participants must do to nurture these tiny creatures, and what skills and qualities are nurtured within themselves as they do. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions of the visionary founders of this program, Rich Szlemp of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Chad Naugle of the Oregon Department of Corrections.
About Nature Night
Portland Audubon’s Speaker Series returns with a set of interesting topics and engaging speakers that will be sure to draw the masses. While the Series will remain free to attend, we highly encourage a suggested donation of $5-$20 from those who are able. This helps cover venue and speaker fees and keeps Nature Night financially sustainable.
Ronda Naseth has been an animal keeper at the Oregon Zoo since 2015 and works in a number of different departments including Africa, Butterflies, Late Routine, Marine Life, and North America. She further indulges her love for animals by volunteering at Audubon’s Wildlife Care Center, serving on the board of Friends of Multnomah County Shelter Animals, fostering for Multnomah County Animal Services, and deploying with the ASPCA to care for victims of cruelty or disaster. Ronda holds degrees in Human Resource Management and Volunteer Coordination & Nonprofit Management.
Rich Szlemp is a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He primarily works with non-federal landowners addressing potential impacts from land use to species that are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. He works on most of the federally-protected species that occur in Oregon. One of his primary responsibilities is working to recover the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly since it has been federally-listed as an endangered species. He also works with Oregon’s two other federally-listed butterflies, the Oregon silverspot and Fender’s blue.
Chad Naugle is the Sustainability Program Manager for the Oregon Department of Corrections. Chad has a B.S. in Administration of Justice from Portland State University, and he has been with the ODOC for 24 years. He developed ODOC’s sustainability plan to focus on increasing sustainable operations in recycling, green chemistry and energy efficiencies that help reduce economic and environmental impacts. He has established nature programming inside the prisons by collaborating with key stakeholders and partnerships with organizations to provide adults in custody with new job skills in sustainability practices for reentry. These programs include beekeeper apprenticeships, sage brush propagation protocols for sage grouse habitat restoration, native host plant and nectar plant propagation programs for endangered butterfly protected habitats, maintaining violet host plants and harvesting leaves to feed the captive reared Oregon Silverspot Husbandry program at the Oregon Zoo, captive rearing program for the endangered Oregon Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and expanding sustainable garden classes. He is on the steering committee for the Sustainability in Prisons Project network and on the ACA Sustainability-Oriented and Environmentally Responsible Practices Committee.