Loss of monarch habitat is the biggest factor in the monarch decline. Pesticides, GMO crops, human expansion with the development of housing/commercial property and mowing practices simply for beautification all play major parts. Through our “Let it Grow” campaign we spread the word about planting milkweed and nectar plants, the reduction of mowing and limiting chemical usage.
Estimates are that 167 million acres of milkweed/monarch habitat have been lost since the introduction of GMO crops in 1997 and the signing of the ethanol mandate in late 2007 – Chip Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch.org, a nonprofit education, conservation and research program based out of the University of Kansas. (To read the full blog entry from Chip Taylor click here Monarch Conservation: Our Choices)
That’s pretty startling, isn’t it?
The most important question is – how can we slow down and even reverse the decline in monarch numbers? We are losing at least a million acres of critical habitat a year, we don’t have the luxury of sitting around debating what should be done. We need to start doing something right now, today!
It starts with education – so many people don’t even know how important milkweed plants are to the monarch survival. After all, they are just weeds, right? We rip them from the garden beds, totally unaware of the beauty of their large blooms or the incredible fragrance that permeates the whole yard on a warm summer evening, or even more important – that it is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat… But some are starting to take notice.
In January 2015, the Illinois Tollway Authority agreed to work with the Natural Resource Defense Council to plant milkweed along 286 miles of roadways, including suburban areas of interstates 90, 88 & 294. The program is not expected to add costs to the Tollway’s standard landscaping practices and may in fact, save on mowing costs. Click this link for the Illinois project news release
In February 2015, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a $3.2 million initiative for monarch conservation. A partnership with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will provide $2 million for on the ground conservation projects to restore and enhance over 200,000 acres of monarch habitat, much of it focusing on the I 35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, a major breeding and migration flyaway zone. Another $1.2 million will go as seed money to generate a larger fundraising match from public and private organizations to fund monarch conservation efforts. Click this link for press release
We can’t expect the government to completely fix this, but even more so, we don’t have time to wait for them to figure it out. We need a multitude of large scale public-private partnerships that focus on the restoration of milkweed/monarch habitats. The major flyaway zone, which extends from the Upper Midwest through central Texas, should hold priority, but we also need to enhance monarch habitats throughout the United States.
And each of us can start making a difference, one garden, one yard at a time… Plant milkweed, native growing milkweed. Live in a condo? Pot up some nectar plants for your deck. Mow the Creeping Charlie instead of using herbicides. Purchase your bedding plants from growers who do not use neonicotinoids (ne.o.nic.o.ti.noid) or seeds treated with it, a systemic insecticide that has been linked to declining pollinator populations. Scale back on how much you mow, especially in rural areas and delay ditch mowing until after Oct. 1. These are just a few of the simple ways we can start helping the monarch. Spread the word. Make a change for the better.