Thursday, June 4, 2015

Planting a Future for Monarchs

Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius plants milkweed with kids in St. Louis. Photo by Georgia Parham/USFWS.
Take a city and mayor devoted to monarchs, add a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, support from dedicated partners and the help of enthusiastic preschoolers, and you have the recipe for bringing monarchs back, one patch at a time.  On June 1, 2015, Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay joined conservation partners from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, St. Louis Zoo and Missouri Botanical Garden to announce the Service’s $80,000 grant in support of the St. Louis Milkweeds for Monarchs program.

The Service grant, through its role with the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers Landscape Conservation Cooperative is providing $80,000 to help expand and monitor St. Louis’s Milkweeds for Monarchs program.  Milkweeds for Monarchs is a citywide initiative to help connect people and urban nature by increasing monarch butterfly habitat and helping people enjoy monarchs in neighborhood parks and spaces. St. Louis Mayor Slay has committed that the city will plant 50 monarch gardens, and challenged the community to plant an additional 200 monarch gardens to commemorate the city’s 250th birthday year.
The grant will be used to expand the Milkweeds for Monarchs Program and evaluate 37 existing monarch and pollinator habitats to assess biological and socioeconomic factors that influence habitat design, such as vegetation composition, pollinator attraction and community acceptance. This research will help inform future site-level strategies for improving monarch habitat across North America.

In time, the St. Louis Milkweeds for Monarchs program will be one critical piece of a larger urban monarch initiative along the I-35 corridor that supports the biological needs of monarchs migrating along the corridor, and benefits the people who live, work and recreate there.

Refuges in the Service’s Midwest Region, including Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge near St. Louis, as well as Big Muddy, Middle Mississippi River and Great River and Clarence Cannon, are playing a critical role in that effort. The staff at Two Rivers Refuge is actively involved with the city in the Milkweeds for Monarchs Program and other pollinator-friendly projects in the St. Louis area. The goal is to restore and enhance more than 50,000 acres of monarch habitat on federal and private lands across the Midwest.

 “These efforts to help the monarch are part of a continental initiative to conserve butterflies, bees and other pollinators that are so critical to our own lives and livelihoods. Just a couple of weeks ago, President Obama announced his strategy to conserve pollinators and called on citizens to become aware of the issue, to restore habitat and to nurture nectar-producing plants for pollinators. His goal is 225 million monarchs by 2020,” Regional Director Melius said.

More information on the Milkweeds for Monarchs Program is available at: https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/monarchs/