The project aims to undertake conservation work on a number of Section 41 Priority species.

We have produced a series of Species, Regional and National Action Plans to focus and coordinate conservation of threatened butterflies across the UK. The project is delivered by staff and volunteers, often in partnership with other organisations.

Key activities include:

  • Advising land owners in target areas
  • Recommending appropriate management
  • Monitoring key populations and habitats
  • Producing factsheets about managing land for threatened species
  • Compiling species distribution and monitoring data to produce site dossiers to help target management
  • Landscape scale projects delivered by our staff and volunteers across England aim to improve habitat for Section 41 Priority species in some of their most important populations

Some examples of species that have benefited from our work through the Species Recovery Programme include:

Chequered Skipper

The Chequered Skipper became extinct in England in 1976 as habitat loss and land use changes meant that the sunny sheltered woodland habitats it needed were lost, although it still survives in parts of western Scotland. Butterfly Conservation has led efforts to reintroduce the butterfly to English woods through partnership projects in Northamptonshire and neighbouring counties. Collaborative work with international scientists has shown that Chequered Skipper populations in Belgium and Northern France were most similar to those of its former English strongholds. So since 2018 butterflies from Belgium have been the source of our reintroduction programme for Chequered Skipper in England. Supported by Back from the Brink, Natural England and the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, our partnership is using the butterfly to demonstrate the success of of woodland restoration at a landscape scale.

Large Blue

This globally threatened butterfly became extinct in the UK in 1979. Thanks to work coordinated by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, it has since been reintroduced successfully to more than 11 sites. Work is currently being undertaken through projects in two key landscapes; Expanding the Large Blue Landscape in the Polden Hills and Conserving the Painswick Valley’s Rare Butterflies which are partially funded by the Species Recovery Programme.

Heath Fritillary

This rare butterfly has been rescued from the brink of extinction and has now recovered to pre-1980 levels.  Butterfly Conservation is involved in monitoring and providing management advice in the key Heath Fritillary areas; The Blean WoodlandsExmoor and the Tamar Valley.  Successful management and monitoring for this rare butterfly has been made possible through working with partner organisations.

Marsh Fritillary

Marsh Fritillary has declined by 73% since 1980. Much work to conserve the Marsh Fritillary has been conducted through specific projects including;  Re-connecting the Culm, the Mynydd Mawr Marsh Fritillary Project and the current Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project.  Butterfly Conservation also continues long-term monitoring and management advice on Marsh Fritillary sites in Dorset (read about our work on Marsh Fritillary in Dorset).


Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Pearl-bordered Fritillary is one of the fastest declining butterflies in the UK, having suffered a 66% decline in abundance between 1977 and 2004. To help target future landscape-scale project work a 2013 dossier of all extant and extinct Pearl-bordered Fritillary sites since 1997 in England was compiled.  Butterfly Conservation has developed projects to conserve Pearl-bordered Fritillary, including; the Saving Devon’s Precious Pearls project (others project areas include; the Wyre Forest, Morecambe Bay Limestones and the South East Woodlands).

Duke of Burgundy

Declines in populations of Duke of Burgundy lead to the production of a 2013 Duke of Burgundy site Dossier to help target future landscape-scale management and provide detailed analysis of site data along with national and regional trends. The dossier included extant Duke of Burgundy sites between 2008 - 2012 and extinct sites since the 1980s. Data analysis revealed there has been a loss of 260 known colonies since the 1980s, representing a 62% loss. Butterfly Conservation is currently working to conserve Duke of Burgundy through a number of projects including; Conserving the Painswick Valley’s Rare Butterflies, work in Morecambe Bay Limestones, the North York Moors and South East England.



Butterfly Conservation has recently finalised a report which shows that between 1997 and 2010 over half of the 60 remaining Lulworth Skipper colonies have experienced population declines. Lulworth Skipper is a long-turf species, therefore reacts quickly to increases in management. Work on Lulworth Skipper will involve management advice, organising workshops with local landowners and through work with Natural England as part of the Farmland ButterfIy Initiative. The aim of work is to ensure there is a balance between managing for long-turf species, such as Lulworth Skipper, and short-turf species with similar distributions (e.g. Adonis Blue). 


Natural England and Butterfly Conservation Members and Donors.