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Concord students, N.H. Fish and Game restore lupines for butterflies

  • Abbot-Downing fourth-grader Ryleigh O'Dell, right, watches classmate Emily Gagnon plant mix sand and soil to plant lupines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.  In May, the students will transplant the flowers to the pine barrens in Concord to help restore a habitat for Karner Blue butterflies which are New Hampshire's most endangered butterflies.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Abbot-Downing fourth-grader Ryleigh O'Dell, right, watches classmate Emily Gagnon plant mix sand and soil to plant lupines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. In May, the students will transplant the flowers to the pine barrens in Concord to help restore a habitat for Karner Blue butterflies which are New Hampshire's most endangered butterflies.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • From left: Abbot-Downing fourth-graders Kayla Olivera, Emily Gagnon, Andrew Kleiner and Freddy Fumunani listen as Fish and Game biologist Brett Ferry explains how to mix sand and soil to plant lupines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.  In May, the students will transplant the flowers to the pine barrens in Concord to help restore a habitat for Karner Blue butterflies which are New Hampshire's most endangered butterflies.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    From left: Abbot-Downing fourth-graders Kayla Olivera, Emily Gagnon, Andrew Kleiner and Freddy Fumunani listen as Fish and Game biologist Brett Ferry explains how to mix sand and soil to plant lupines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. In May, the students will transplant the flowers to the pine barrens in Concord to help restore a habitat for Karner Blue butterflies which are New Hampshire's most endangered butterflies.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Abbot-Downing fourth-grader Ryleigh O'Dell, right, watches classmate Emily Gagnon plant mix sand and soil to plant lupines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.  In May, the students will transplant the flowers to the pine barrens in Concord to help restore a habitat for Karner Blue butterflies which are New Hampshire's most endangered butterflies.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • From left: Abbot-Downing fourth-graders Kayla Olivera, Emily Gagnon, Andrew Kleiner and Freddy Fumunani listen as Fish and Game biologist Brett Ferry explains how to mix sand and soil to plant lupines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.  In May, the students will transplant the flowers to the pine barrens in Concord to help restore a habitat for Karner Blue butterflies which are New Hampshire's most endangered butterflies.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

The Karner blue is the state butterfly, it is an endangered species and its larvae feed exclusively on the leaves of wild blue lupine.

These facts weren’t lost last week on Abbot-Downing Elementary School students Payton Caby and Freddy Fumunani, who were busy packing sandy soil, pine needles, water and blue lupine seeds into a cardboard planting container fashioned from a half and half container.

“The lupines are important because they are eaten by an endangered species of butterfly,” Freddy said,

his hands covered with soil. “Without these, they might be extinct.”

The plants will be grown in the classroom until May, when the students will take them to the eastern edge of town and plant them at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Karner Blue Butterfly Conservation Easement near the Concord airport.

The Kids for Karners in New Hampshire program is in its 14th year, and hundreds of Concord students have planted thousands of blue lupine in the pine barrens in that time. The program combines a classroom education component with a conservation project to increase the number of available host plants and nectar sources for the butterflies. The adult Karner blues feed on the nectar of flowering plants, which restricts where the colorful butterflies can survive, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In Concord, the program launched in four classrooms and has grown steadily to include 30 classrooms at the elementary, middle and high schools. “It is a unique opportunity for kids because they are helping restore the habitat of an endangered species,” said Marilyn Wyzga, a wildlife educator with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, which partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Federation. “It’s not something every student gets to do.”

As the plants grow in classrooms, students learn about butterfly ecology, life cycles and how they interact with the environment. On designated spring planting days staff from the wildlife organizations and volunteers help students transfer the plants. “When we go out in May to plant them, they really love getting out there, ” said Casey Ireland, the teacher whose class planted their lupine last week.

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@ cmonitor.com)

Keep up the good work Fish and Game . . . don't know how you guys do it on your meager funding.

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