More monarch habitat in Wisconsin
by Isiah Holmes
Wisconsin is now home to 105,000 acres of either new or enhanced habitat for monarch butterflies. It’s a major conservation effort resulting from work with the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative, which formed in 2018. Under one umbrella volunteers, partner organizations, and members of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), worked to mass-plant milkweed and wild flowers. These are crucial to monarch butterflies for breeding and food, an iconic insect which has seen an 80% decline in its eastern population over the last 20 years.
“Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative partners have made a solid initial down payment on our statewide goal,” says Brenna Jones, DNR conservation biologist and Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative coordinator. The Monarch Collaborative over the last two years has advocated for increases in monarch habitats in order to help maintain the species. According to a DNR press release, volunteers with the collaborative added 120 million new stems of milkweed, along with other native wildflowers.
A new report highlights the collaborative’s accomplishments between 2018 and 2020. Over 205,000 acres were enrolled into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program. Some 822 monarch-specific conservation projects were assisted by Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists. Additionally, 85,000 copies of Wisconsin plant list for monarchs were sent directly to Wisconsin homes, and 184 Wisconsin organizations and individuals have pledged to help the butterflies.
“Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative members expect that the pace of milkweeds and nectar plants added to Wisconsin’s landscape will pick up,” said Jones. “There is an unprecedented level of attention and funding now going to monarch and other pollinator habitats both nationally and in Wisconsin. Governments, non-profits, and individuals are all focusing on the task.”
Co-leader of the collaborative’s agricultural working group Andrew Wallendal noted that many farmers are also playing their part. “These growers are unsung heroes that need to be recognized,” said Wallendal. Dan Meyer, a dairy farmer from Kiel and a Wisconsin Farm Bureau member, is planning his first monarch habitat.
“On our farm, we accomplish this by planting cover crops on environmentally sensitive and lower-yielding acres,” said Meyer. “This is one practice we can use to help expand diversity. Oftentimes, farmers can accomplish this in a low cost, low-risk way by utilizing current cost-share funding.” The collaborative plans to continue its work to support the monarch population in Wisconsin. Monarchs and other pollinators like honeybees are both crucial to stable ecosystems and have declined significantly over recent decades.
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