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Endangered Purple Copper Butterfly Habitat takes shape at Lithgow

A new playground for the endangered Purple Copper Butterfly is emerging in the most unlikely of places, with plantings and habitat restoration just completed on a 10 hectare site sandwiched between Lithgow's sewage works and the local rubbish tip.

The project located between the Lithgow Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Lithgow Waste Facility has been a collaborative effort between Lithgow City Council and the Lithgow Oberon Landcare Association, supported by Central Tablelands Local Land Services through the Australian Government funded ‘Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project’.

“This is the largest area of Purple Copper Butterfly habitat at Lithgow, and, in fact, across the whole region,” said Huw Evans from Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

“The Purple Copper Butterfly is one of Australia's rarest butterfly species. It is only found in the Central Tablelands of NSW in elevations above 900 m.”

In previous years professional bush regeneration contractors have removed invasive plants from the site that were impacting on butterfly habitat. Additional funding from Local Land Services has allowed further control of radiata pine, blackberry, scotch broom and common hawthorn.

“The large pines particularly were creating very dense shade, and the other woody weeds created physical barriers restricting butterfly movement, however the butterflies prefer light, open and sunny conditions when on the wing,” explained Trish Kidd from Lithgow Oberon Landcare.

In one of the final projects carried out by Lithgow City Council’s Green Army Team, participants planted native blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa ssp. lasiophylla) at the site. The blackthorn is the only food source of the Purple Copper Butterfly caterpillar.

“Lithgow City Council was very happy to participate in this project to strengthen Purple Copper Butterfly habitat on Council lands,” said Damon Cupitt, Environment Team Leader with Lithgow City Council.

“Through this collaborative project funded by Local Land Services we achieved a great outcome for the native habitat and community.”

Small colonies of this rare butterfly can be found in patches of natural vegetation in and around Lithgow, and Huw Evans is hoping the new plantings near the tip will help this special species gain a stronger foothold for ongoing survival.

“Sometimes threatened species can survive in unlikely places. Working with the community to help the Purple Copper Butterfly hang in there through restoration of a beautiful natural habitat on a piece of unloved land is something we’re proud to be part of,” said Huw.

“Remnant bushland is valuable for all the unique native creatures that live in our region. The work we do to protect one species has a multitude of flow on benefits.”

“Many of our native animals like the Purple Copper Butterfly are endangered. We need to build community awareness about their plight so we can support these species,” said Huw.

For more information about habitat restoration in the Lithgow area contact Central Tablelands Local Land Services on 02 6350 3110.