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More Money For Monarchs

The familiar orange and black monarch butterfly has become a much rarer sight over the past few decades. There’s a growing movement to restore the habitat along the monarch’s migratory path. A new federal grant enlists farmers in the effort.

Credit nrcs.usda.gov

Picky Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. And the delicate Monarch butterfly needs a lot of nectar during the migration from Canada to Mexico, which takes several generations. The US Department of Agriculture is dedicating four million dollars to try to get farmers in the ten state migration corridor to plant milkweed in areas that aren’t good for crops, such as borders and wetlands. It’s similar to pollinator habitat programs that benefit bees. Mike Richolson is with the USDA’s conservation office in DeKalb County. He says it’s important to be patient and consider the good the plantings will do.

“A lot of farmers in DeKalb, and this is no knock on DeKalb, like to keep things high and tight, kinda mowed, looking good. The pollinator habitats before they are established can look a little rough around the edges.”

Richolson says the loss of natural habitat in the region is huge, but individuals can make a difference.

“If I can get a guy to do two acres of pollinator habitat somewhere between Shabbona and DeKalb, that’s a pretty good improvement. Kind of like eating an elephant one bite at a time.”

Illinois and Wisconsin are two of the states participating in the program. Farmers can apply at their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.