For Immediate release
Group effort creates habitat for monarchs
The Missouri Department of Conservation, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, Associated Electric Cooperative and the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives teamed up on March 28 for a project that will benefit endangered Monarch butterflies.
Representatives from the four organizations completed the planting of native wildflowers beneficial to monarchs, whose numbers are declining due to loss of habitat and other factors. The effort is part of a statewide collaboration to ensure the colorful butterflies continue to fly free.
Picture above, from left, Robert Ziehmer, Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, Brandon Butler, Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, and David Klindt, formerly the Vice President of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, helped plant wildflowers in a test plot designed to help restore habitat for monarch butterflies.
The demonstration plot, located at the Association’s office in Jefferson City, includes signs that will inform the public of the monarch’s plight and how they can help by establishing backyard butterfly gardens. The plot will include a diverse mix of plants beneficial to monarchs in place of fescue grass that once covered a hillside.
The population of monarch butterflies has decreased 90 percent in the last 20 years, putting them at risk of being placed on the endangered species list.
“That could have an adverse impact on the ability of Missouri’s electric cooperatives to provide reliable power to members,” said Barry Hart, CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “When a new species is added to the endangered list, new restrictions follow that could make it more difficult and costly to site and maintain power line rights of way. We are delighted to work with MDC and the Conservation Federation to ensure this doesn’t happen with monarchs and that they continue to thrive in Missouri.”
He added that Missouri’s electric cooperatives are in a unique position to help spread the word about the monarch’s plight and ways the state’s 600,000 electric cooperative members can help restore monarch habitat through their own backyard plantings.
“The monarch has a major migration and the landscape they cover has changed greatly,” said Robert Ziehmer, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Working together, we can put the habitat back out there and we can save the monarch and other pollinators.”
With help from MDC and the Conservation Federation of Missouri, the association has committed to a series of stories in its Rural Missouri magazine, which has a monthly circulation of 550,000. The stories will show readers how to create gardens using native plants that are beneficial to monarchs and other native species.
“This is an activity that all citizens can get involved in, no mater what your outdoor passion is,” said Brandon Butler, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. “Get out there and put some plants in the ground that will benefit wildlife and our pollinator species.”
The test plot — located adjacent to the association’s training grounds for lineworkers — will help electric co-op employees identify beneficial plants such as milkweed in their power line rights of way, preventing additional loss of habitat.
In addition, Associated Electric Cooperative, which generates electricity for electric cooperative members in Missouri and parts of Iowa and Oklahoma, is working proactively to protect the butterfly and keep members’ electricity reliable and affordable. Associated helped sponsor the first Missouri Monarch and Pollinator Conservation Strategy meeting in July 2015. More than 50 people from 32 state organizations, as well as private individuals, attended.
Habitat loss, drought, adverse weather in migration areas, loss of winter habitat in Mexico, urbanization and pesticide use are all factors leading to the decline of monarchs. Milkweed, the monarch’s favorite food source, also is declining.
You can learn more about the effort to save Monarch butterflies at www.monarchwatch.org.