Karine Franke Vote for the Karner Blue for New York State Butterfly

by Lynne Jackson

Update: Alas, on January 7, 2008, the Karner Blue came in second in the vote for NYS Butterfly. Here are the election results.

ALBANY: Karina Franke spoke at the November Save the Pine Bush vegetarian/vegan lasagna dinner at the First Presbyterian Church. Karina began by explaining how she became involved in her work to make the Karner Blue to be chosen as the NYS butterfly.

Results of vote
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, "Karner Blue" Kampaign Manager Karina Franke, NYS Senator Vincent Leibell and Town Clerk Jo-Ann Dyckman announcing the official results

The project started a year ago, when Karina was looking for a research project. She knew she wanted to work on something to do with animals, especially a project involving endangered species. She and her friends formed a group called DWAD — Down With Animal Destruction. Karina was trying to think of something that kids could do that would make a real difference (Karina is only 9 years old). At the beginning of third grade her teacher, Mrs. Toovey, told the class that the spring unit would be about butterflies. Karina made an internet search and discovered that New York State does not have a state butterfly. And, more importantly, New York State is home to a federally endangered butterfly, the Karner Blue. That is when Karina decided to advocate to make the Karner Blue the NYS butterfly.

At first, Karina was a little disappointed to find out that no money is given to state symbols, so if the Karner Blue became the state butterfly, there would not be money to buy land to set aside for conservation and wildlife. But, then Karina began to think about benefits of the Karner Blue being the state butterfly.

First, she believed that New Yorkers would have a feeling of pride and excitement about their state butterfly and would support programs that would help save this endangered butterfly from extinction. When people learn that the Karner Blue was once in Maine, Massachusettes, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Canada and is now extinct in those places, Karina believes that people would urge their government officials to keep New York off that list. When people step into the voting booth, endangered species protection and conservation will not be side issues. More people in New York will insist that the state set money aside to buy Pine Bush, make it against the law to build on it, and to have controlled fires. If the Department of Environmental Conservation put more money in their budget to protect the Karner Blue, lawmakers would not give them so much trouble because the citizens who elected them insist that more be done to protect the Karner Blue. In other words, if more people are aware of the Karner Blue, then more people will rally around protecting the Karner Blue.

Save the Karner Blue

Sung to the tune of the Addams Family
Lyrics by Karina Franke and the Karner Kids

The Karner Blue is dying
Nobody saw it flying
And all New Yorkers crying
Bring back the Karner Blue!

The Karner Blue is dying
Nobody saw it flying
And all New Yorkers crying
The Karner Blue needs YOU!

Karina, with help from the audience, sang this song at the dinner.

State symbols are selected in a specific manner in New York State. Children in grades 3, 4 and 5 vote on which butterfly they want. Karina believes that by having kids vote on the Karner Blue will encourage kids to ask why there is no mention of the Karner Blue in their science books. In eight to ten years, the kids who participate in this election on the Karner Blue for state butterfly will be eligible to vote. She hopes that they will think about how many animals lose their homes every time a mall or hotel or theater opens up (this brought great applause from the audience). Maybe these kids will demand that officials protect the home of the Karner Blue and other animals.

Karina had a lot of help along the way on her campaign. She began her campaign by writing to 22 legislators and the Governor. Some of the lawmakers, such as Congressman John Hall, wrote to others on behalf of the Karner Blue. Karina mentioned that her daddy built a website for her — http://www.karnerblueforstatebutterfly.org/. She prepared Karner Blue packets in February to send out to schools.

In May, Karina, her parents and Mrs. Toovey came to the Capitol in Albany, and met Secretary to the Governor, Marty Mack and gave him a packet about the Karner Blue. He gave the packet to Governor Eliot Spitzer, who gave the information to Senator Neil Breslin (who represents the Pine Bush). Senator Breslin then introduced legislation to make the Karner Blue the state butterfly. At this point, Karina thought things were looking pretty good to have the Karner Blue as the state butterfly, because both the Governor and the New York State Senate were on board.

But, the NYS Assembly needed the “kid vote”, and an election was needed to vote on the NYS butterfly. In September, Karina was on Assemblywoman Galef’s “Ask Sandy” TV show with a Karner Blue expert scientist. Karina had copies of the TV show made onto DVDs. She contacted members of the Assembly and asked them for the names of the elementary schools in their district who were participating in the election. She then sent DVDs to all the schools with information on voting for the Karner Blue. All together, she sent around 300 DVDs and letters to school principals and teachers in New York.

Wanted: Karner Kids

By Karina Franke

Become a Karner Kid!
Please come join our bid
To fill the New York skies
With Karner Blue butterflies.

The question is what can you do
For the endangered Karner Blue?
Lend a hand and get in the game!
Grab a pen and sign your name!
Make lawmakers hear our cry
To give New York a State Butterfly.

The Karner is the perfect choice!
If this butterfly had a voice,
It would tell a very sad story,
Filled with amazing past glory –
A time when clouds of Karner butterflies
Swarmed New York’s pine barren skies.

Today, Karner Blue numbers are way low.
Let’s bring back their beautiful blue glow!
You’ve heard the what, the how, and the why

Initially, voting on the Karner Blue took place on Halloween and Election Day. Karina and her friends wrote a Karner Blue song for the Halloween election, sung to the tune of “The Addams Family.” See inset for the words.

Karina was asked about why she chose the Karner Blue. She explained, that where she lives, in Westchester County, New York, very very few people have heard of the Karner Blue. She felt that chosing a state butterfly should be a meaningful state symbol and to spread awareness about the plight of the Karner Blue.

Last July, Karina went to the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center and heard a talk by Neil Gifford and went on a walk where she was able to see a Karner Blue.

Other butterflies that are running in the election are the black swallowtail, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Mourning Cloak, Red Spotted Purple or White Admiral. Karina believes the Karner Blues’ biggest competitor is the Red Spotted Purple because there are two photos of that butterfly on Assemblywoman Galef’s website announcing the election. However, Karina noted, that once students watched her DVD, then they almost always chose the Karner Blue.

This is not the first time the Karner Blue was in the running to be a state symbol Years ago, a contest was held for NYS insect. However, the lady bug won over our butterfly.

Karina was asked about adults not being able to vote, and Karina said, that yes, it was pretty weird to be too old to vote!

The other way this election is different from adult elections is that when adults vote for president or some other office, they are voting for someone to run our country and serve us. But, in this election, if the Karne Blue wins, the children are voting to serve and protect the Karner Blue.

At the time Karina spoke, there was still time for schools to get in their votes for the Karner Blue to be the state butterfly. As of late December, a total of 33,000 votes had been received by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s office. The votes will be counted at the Cortlandt Manor Town Hall on January 7.