Thinking outside our boundaries in Iowa

July 22, 2016

By Natasha Bures

Monarchs have been in the news a lot lately. Overwintering populations are on the rise, but they have a long way to go before they return to the healthy numbers from decades past. You can help make a difference. Your town can join in the fight to save the monarch butterfly, too.

Take Des Moines, Iowa for example. Recently, Mayor T. M. Franklin Cownie became the first in Iowa to pledge his support for monarch butterfly recovery as part of the National Wildlife Federation Mayor’s Monarch Pledge. Now, thanks to his pledge, more than 600,000 people in the greater Des Moines area can help expand this conservation effort and create a future filled with monarchs.

Through the Mayor’s pledge, cities can:

  • Encourage residents and homeowners associations to plant pollinator or monarch gardens
  • Revise mowing and milkweed planting programs in city parks
  • Support native plant or milkweed seed sales or giveaway programs
  • Convert abandoned lots to monarch habitat
  • Plant milkweed and native nectar plants in median strips and public rights-of-way
  • Integrate monarch conservation into the city’s master plans
  • Adopt pesticide practices that are not harmful to pollinators

Restoring Iowa’s Monarch Flyway
Lots of people are working to help monarchs across the state of Iowa. The mayor’s pledge ties in nicely with work that we are doing with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and private landowners near the I-35 corridor - which roughly outlines the monarch’s migration corridor from Canada to Mexico. With seed revenue contributions to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources going to the most beneficial habitat locations, we were able to match our funds dollar-for-dollar and bring a targeted approach to our restoration efforts. Last year, these funds completed 50 projects that enriched 520 acres of prairie habitat for the Monarch Flyway in Iowa.

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Des Moines is an anchor point for monarchs. Not only is the refuge a hub of education for local schools, it is also a huge propagation center for the monarch-friendly plants we are planting in Des Moines and other parts of the Monarch Flyway. Thanks to local volunteers and better utilization of greenhouses, our biologists are growing more than 30,000 native plants. Milkweed is one of these native plants and is the essential food source for monarch caterpillars at the start of the monarch life cycle. Also key to monarch survival are native nectar-producing plants like purple prairie clover, prairie blazing star, and bergamot that provide food for the adult stage. 

Read the full news release from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.