Nearly 20 years ago, construction began on a project that a lot of Berrien County residents were looking forward to; the US-31/I-94 junction. A concept that began in 1981, the plan was to connect I-94 and I-196 with the Indiana Toll Road in South Bend. However, the build was put on hold in 2002, and so the freeway sat, dead-ending in a wooded area. Why would the state abandon such a costly and convenient project? A sort of Butterfly Effect...

The Mitchell’s satyr butterfly was responsible for the stop of the build. One of the world's rarest butterflies, it calls Michigan and Indiana home. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the satyr is dark chocolate in color, and it's wings contain "a row of four to five black, yellow-ringed eyespots, with the central three eyespots on the hindwing being the largest. Unfortunately for it's future the Mitchell's satyr is quite picky about it's environment, preferring a very special kind of wetland only found in prairies... you know, just like the wooded area that I-31 was going through. Shortly after construction began, then Governor Jennifer Granholm signed the Preserve First Program, which stopped all transportation expansion (unless permitted otherwise) in an effort to conserve the land for this and other endangered species. Construction would not be able to continue until a decision could be made regarding whether or not this was necessary stretch of freeway. Consider it official. Work is underway to complete the project.

What will this mean for the Mitchell's satyr's habitat? One can only hope that through programs like Preserve First that the species was able to build it's population and that there is enough preserved land for them to thrive on.

SEE MORE: Seven Species of Turtles You Can Find in Michigan




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