Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Illinois Plans to Help Save the Monarch Butterfly

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Illinois Plans to Help Save the Monarch Butterfly

Article excerpt

It's been a tough year for America's favorite butterfly.

Each year, Monarch butterflies migrate as far as 3,400 miles from northern United States and Canada to Mexico. Most monarchs have a lifespan of only about a month, so several generations of butterflies are born and die over the course of the migration.

However, due to 20 years of habitat loss along the paths of their migration and intense storms in Mexico this past winter, the number of butterflies in much of the United States much lower than usual.

But in Illinois, where the monarch butterfly is the state insect, the Illinois Monarch Butterfly Summit has convened in order to develop a solution.

"Monarchs have become not only a national and a state issue, but it's an international issue," Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Wayne Rosenthal told the summit attendees.

Karen Oberhauser, coordinator of the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project and a University of Minnesota professor of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology, who has been studying monarch's for years, concluded that the monarch population is less than half of what it was last year. Her estimate is shared by the volunteers from the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network who track butterflies throughout the state.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which is running the summit, gathered experts from across a variety of disciplines at the State Fairgrounds in Springfield to develop a comprehensive state- wide plan that can be integrated into conservation efforts already in place.

"We're also looking to convert some of the city right of way areas to monarch habitat," Dave Lamb, assistant superintendent of parks in Bloomington, Ill., told the Herald & Review.

Bloomington alone has approximately 200 acres of land that it has converted from parkland to native prairie. The state hope to continue and expand current efforts to plant additional milkweed and return manicured green space back to natural habitat. Summit participant Matthew Lechner, who is a program director at Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, told the Herald & Review that there are 3,500 acres that could be converted into habitat land for the monarch butterflies in Shawnee. …

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