Waterton Lakes National Park. Courtesy: Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park will become home to a three-year conservation project focusing on restoring an endangered butterfly population.

The project is a collaboration between Parks Canada and the Calgary Zoo in hopes of conserving and restoring the half-moon hairstreak butterfly population in the national park.

Blakiston Fan, a grassland area along the entrance road to the Waterton Lakes Park is the only known location where this species of butterfly exists in Alberta.

Waterton Lakes Park is one of nine locations in Canada where the butterfly is known to exist.

 Research will include examining duration of life stages, survival rates, larval behaviour, interaction with ants, and conditions of eggs during the winter months.

Conservation research will focus on assessing and restoring the butterfly's habitat and managing invasive plants.

Parks Canada will contribute $289,000 to the project.

"National parks play an important role in addressing the impacts of climate change, protecting our biodiversity and contributing to the recovery of species at risk," Ministerof Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson said about Parks Canada's involvement in the project.

The half-moon hairstreak butterfly is small and light brown with white-ringed black spots on its wings. Unlike other hairstreak butterflies, the half-moon butterfly has no tail on the hindwing.

The project is anticipated to help advance longer-term population monitoring already in place for the butterfly.

Genetic material will be collected to assess the possibility of translocations of the butterflies to other populations in B.C. and Montana.

The Calgary Zoo hopes that this project can help the butterfly population thrive.

"This tiny and humble butterfly may not be in the spotlight as much as some species, but their existence is a valuable and intrinsic part of Canada's rich biodiversity," Calgary Zoo President and CEO, Dr. Clément Lanthier said.

Half-moon hairstreak butterflies are primarily threatened due to Waterton's loss of native plants which the butterflies rely on for food, shelter, and breeding.

A wildfire in 2017 scorched the park, burning more than 19,000 hectares, or 38 per cent of the park.