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Butterfly bill flies through Wyoming Legislature

February 23, 2009

The "butterfly bill" fluttered through the Wyoming House on Feb. 20, passing 51-9, and it now awaits the signature of Gov. Dave Freudenthal.

"It will be fun developing the marketing plan for the state of Wyoming promoting our newest symbol, Sheridan's green hairstreak," said one of the bills co-sponsors, Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn.

"Maybe even this spring I will identify the butterfly while taking a hike in the Big Horn Mountains, listening to meadowlarks, our state bird, and finding my first Indian paintbrush, our state flower," Berger said.

Berger credits Big Horn Elementary School students Tanner Warder and Lydia Mayer and University of Wyoming Professor Scott Shaw for the success of Senate File 16. On two occasions, the trio testified before legislative committees.

"I believe because of the excellent presentations given by Tanner and Lydia of the research they did with their class members, and, with Dr. Shaw, the committees were confident the state butterfly should be the Sheridan's green hairstreak," Berger said.

"I believe Dr. Shaw's work helped with passage of the legislation, and if anyone gets the opportunity to read his article in the Reflections magazine of 2007, it will prove why we should have a state butterfly and that it be the Sheridan's green hairstreak," she added.

The article is at, or copies can be ordered, free of charge, by calling (307) 766-3667 or e-mailing

Shaw, an entomologist in the College of Agriculture's Department of Renewable Resources, stated in the article that Callophrys sheridanii is a lovely insect, being one of the few green butterflies in the region.

It was discovered in 1877 near the location of present-day Sheridan, Shaw said. Both the town and the butterfly are named after Lt. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, a famous Civil War commander.

The butterfly occurs widely across Wyoming in mountains and foothills, wherever its primary food source (the sulphur-flower) is found, said Shaw, who, as curator of the UW Insect Museum, estimates Sheridan's green hairstreak is one of at least 12,000 insect species found in Wyoming.

Shaw praised the two Big Horn students for their research and presentations in Cheyenne.

"I was impressed they were very thoughtfully prepared. Their research was outstanding, and the quality of the information they presented and how they presented it equaled that of many college students," Shaw said. "They were very poised speakers."

Warder, now a fourth grader at Big Horn, launched the project last school year for extra credit as part of a program led by third-grade teacher Laurie Graves and Big Horn's gifted and talented teacher, Marcia McChesney.

He then collaborated with classmate Mayer to get input from other Big Horn students, and they also consulted with Shaw on numerous occasions to learn more about the butterfly before presenting their idea last year to Sheridan County legislators, including the bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan.

"Dr. Shaw was a big help," Warder said shortly after learning the bill passed through the Wyoming House on Friday. "He gave us tons of information. He gave us ideas and support, and he came to Cheyenne twice to testify with us."

Warder, the son of Karla and Jon Warder of Big Horn, admitted he was nervous while making presentations before the two legislative committees.
"Getting up in front of them was pretty scary, but it was neat and fun. They were really supportive, and some of them were pretty funny. Some of them were jokingly teasing Sen. Burns about the butterfly bill; they were making us all laugh."

Warder added, "I wasn't even sure it would get through the committee, but Lydia and I really worked hard on this. I probably would have gotten pretty depressed if it hadn't gotten through."

Asked about the nine House members who voted against the bill, Berger responded, "The no votes really had more to do with giving the students the experience of knowing it isn't easy to pass legislation. And, even if you like the butterfly idea, it may not be to some the most important thing to do that day in the Wyoming Legislature."

Karla Warder said her son started learning about the democratic process early in his project.

"It was hard when the entire school voted for the Sheridan's green hairstreak because Tanner initially liked the anicia checkerspot, a butterfly that feeds on our state flower, the Indian paintbrush. He had to understand when people get to choose, not everyone gets what they want."

Warder added with a laugh, "Tanner loves the Sheridan's green hairstreak, and I think he's actually forgotten about being disappointed at first."

In his article, Shaw said his first recommendation as state butterfly was Sheridan's green hairstreak, while the anicia checkerspot came in number two.

"Dr. Shaw was a terrific help in assisting the students with their research, and having narrowed the legislation to a state butterfly will give future classes in Wyoming a chance at naming a state insect," Berger said. "In today's difficult times, it is great to see civic engagement at its best with student involvement in their government."

Berger said Freudenthal is expected to sign the bill within a couple of weeks, and she hopes Warder, Mayer and Shaw can attend.

"They did a lot of work on the project, and it should be their day, one to be proud of," she said.

Posted on Thursday, February 26, 2009

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