Huge Project Seeks to Rebuild Monarch Habitats
By Chandler Garland
Earlier this October, the Conservation Foundation of Naperville, Ill., was granted $250,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for the Fox Valley Corridor Project. This project is part of larger, national effort to restore habitats of the North American Monarch Butterfly across the United States. The Conservation Foundation is one of 22 organizations to receive a grant for this kind of project. All 22 chosen projects come to a total award amount of $3,048,887 according to the Nation Fish and Wildlife Foundation's 2016 Monarch Grant Slate.
"As with many pollinators, the monarch has seen big declines in recent years," said Dan Lobbes, director of land preservation for The Conservation Foundation. "It has been estimated that their populations have dropped more than 80 percent in the last few years." This means that the population has dropped from 1 billion to less than 60 million, according to the NFWF. The plunge is due largely to the loss of critical habitat and the increased use of pesticides.
The Fox Valley project will work in partnership with 12 public and private organizations including Barrington Area Conservation Trust, Conserve Lake County, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Forest Preserve District of Kendall County, Land Conservancy of McHenry County, and the Oswegoland Park District. The contributions of these organizations total almost $600,000.
"We're very happy to bring all these organizations together to do such important work," Lobbes said. "It takes all of us working together to make a significant and lasting difference."
The project, and its sister projects across the nation, will address three key strategies for the restoration and maintenance of the monarch population: habitat restoration; coordination and capacity building; and seed supply and availability. Habitat restoration seeks to restore habitats across the range of the monarch's natural migration cycle with emphasis on restoring milkweed and nectar plants. The milkweed plant is key to monarch habitats as their main source of food and their plant of choice for laying eggs. "Almost anyone can plant it…and when they do, monarchs will come. It's almost magical," Lobbes said.
Coordination and capacity building refers to the focus on increased cooperation among organizations, states and regions engaged in monarch conservation.
Some of the organizations working in the Fox River project have preserves both small and large where they will plant milkweed and other nectar plants. The Conservation Foundation and other participating organizations will work with homeowners, businesses, schools, churches, parks, etc., to encourage them to add pollinator-friendly pants to their landscaping.
"This project is designed to work on many different scales, from the city lot to the large forest preserves. It's a very exciting project, and we're really glad to have played a role in putting it all together," Lobbes said.