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Westmont Approves Monarch Resolution

On March 16, the Village of Westmont adopted a resolution to support the DuPage Monarch Project, which is an organized effort to improve and increase available monarch habit.  The resolution, which was initiated by the Westmont Environmental Improvement Commission (EIC), brings awareness to the concern of diminished butterfly populations.

“The DuPage Monarch Project is pleased and excited by the Village of Westmont’s monarch resolution and its commitment to monarch and pollinator conservation,” said Lonnie Morris, Coordinator of the DuPage Monarch Project. “The growing number of monarch friendly communities in DuPage means there are more opportunities to learn from each other, share ideas and create oases of habitat within range for the short flights of native bees and butterflies.”

The EIC has coordinated a spring speaker series on a host of environment-related topics.  On Wednesday, May 3, 7 p.m. at the Westmont Public Library, 428 N. Cass Avenue, the topic will be “WHERE ARE THE MONARCHS?”  The presentation will feature local resident Pat Miller who will look at historical environmental factors that affect the monarch butterfly population. Miller will share information about efforts to turn the tide of butterfly population decline and what can be done to help.

The Village of Westmont and Clarendon Hills also continue to move forward together with the Richmond Education Garden & Apiary project, which will feature a butterfly-friendly habitat. There have also been conversations about possibly introducing natural vegetation improvements along the BNSF railroad corridor to further assist with this initiative.

For more information on how you can support butterfly habitat, visit the DuPage Monarch Project website at dupagemonarchs.com and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Website at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/PollinatorGarden.html

Glen Ellyn Joins Growing Number of Monarch Friendly Communities

The Glen Ellyn Park District signed a monarch resolution on February 7th, formalizing a longstanding commitment to monarch conservation. The Park District is the seventh municipal entity to endorse DuPage Monarch Project’s goal of expanding and improving habitat for a butterfly that in recent years has experienced an alarming and precipitous decline in population.

Students at Ben Franklin Elementary School kicked off Glen Ellyn’s summer of monarchs in 2015 when they decided to learn more about the challenges facing the butterfly and what could be done to help them. Their interest quickly expanded beyond the classroom into a collaborative, village wide effort between the Village of Glen Ellyn, Park District, Public Library, School District 41, and Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Monarchs were featured on banners, two monarch programs were presented at the library, over 80 volunteers participated in planting two new butterfly gardens, approximately 800 milkweed plants were given away or planted and hundreds of milkweed seed packets were distributed.

“Glen Ellyn is a powerful example of how diverse public bodies can cooperate and work together on an issue like monarch conservation,” said Lonnie Morris, Coordinator for the DuPage Monarch Project.   “Each one made a contribution that added up to Glen Ellyn being monarch friendly from their parks and public spaces into residential gardens.”

The 2015 summer of monarch initiatives will be ongoing under the newly signed resolution, which sets monarch protection and habitat as park district priorities.It may take many years for the butterfly to recover, but Glen Ellyn is already preparing the next generation of conservationists by introducing young people to the joys of discovering the natural world.

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“Searching for monarch eggs and caterpillars is a favorite activity for kids who come through our nature camp programs,” said Renae Frigo, a naturalist with the Glen Ellyn Park District. “The past few years has proved more challenging to find them, but once the campers know what to look for, they cannot help but check milkweed plants during other activities. Watching a child walk past a plant, flip the leaf to look for monarch activity, warms my heart. They are hopeful in their search, and it reminds me that we should be hopeful for the species, that we are moving in a better direction.”

New Activists Score a Major Win for Monarchs

Emily Hansen and Kathleen McTighe took a giant leap into the unknown when asked to help monarchs. Their shared concern for the imperiled butterfly launched them into the public arena and saw them through to a successful outcome.

Hansen and McTighe already had a history with native plants, the key to healthy monarch habitat, when they agreed to be advocates for the butterfly. McTighe, a retired elementary school teacher had recently redesigned her landscape, replacing traditional plantings with wildlife friendly natives. Hansen’s environmental roots began with a degree in Natural Resources Conservation and employment on various ecological restoration projects. They also shared a connection with Denise Sandoval, a local member of Wild Ones and DuPage Monarch Project (DMP), who called upon them when DMP was looking for volunteers to reach out to municipal leaders in Naperville.

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Emily Hansen and Kathleen McTighe at Knoch Knolls Nature Center, Naperville

Hansen and McTighe’s first step as new activists was to learn as much as they could before approaching decision makers. Wanting to know more about the activist process, they turned to Connie Schmidt, DuPage Monarch Project board member and seasoned activist. Schmidt outlined the recommended steps: researching the monarch’s situation and proposed solutions, looking into what their community was already doing, connecting with like minded people, using the model resolution on DMP’s website as a starting point and asking questions all along the way.

“Kathleen and Emily had little previous experience in community advocacy work,” said Schmidt, “but sitting around a kitchen table gazing out into a native garden we immediately formed a bond. They cared deeply about improving habitat for native species and were willing to jump out of their comfort zone into the board rooms to get the backing of their local Park district on this critical issue.”

What at first felt overwhelming quickly became an adventure. They began with Naperville’s 41page Sustainability Plan.   Naperville, as one of Sierra Club’s Cool Cities, has a plan that focuses primarily on energy and transportation policies, development and resources. It was new to Hansen and McTighe and left then feeling proud of their city’s commitment to sustainability. Additional research revealed the city had recently planted a pollinator garden over the garage at the Municipal Center. City staff informed them Naperville had approved a monarch pledge and it would be announced in spring of 2017.

With the city already on board, Hansen and McTighe turned their attention to the Park District. Naperville has 2400 acres of parkland and the two of them set off on a series of mini field trips to familiarize themselves with the local parks, including Knoch Knolls Nature Center.   They found milkweed in a native planting at Knoch Knolls and the building was certified LEED Platinum with many state of the art sustainability features.

Pride in their community continued to grow.

Hansen and McTighe encountered a reservoir of support for monarchs when they reached out to local gardening groups. Members of the Naperville Community Gardeners raised their hands in support within minutes of hearing about the monarch resolution.

Confidence grew every step of the way from the encouragement and warm, supportive responses they received. The City and Park District were already taking action to help pollinators, the community was eager to support a resolution, and they were speaking on behalf of a county-wide initiative. Within a few short months of becoming DuPage Monarch Project spokespersons, the Naperville Park District signed a Monarch Resolution.

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have a passion,” said McTighe. “Follow you heart and passions and know there are great rewards in making a difference.”

Glen Ellyn Partnership Working on Behalf of Monarchs

The Village of Glen Ellyn will become a haven for butterflies thanks to a partnership with The Conservation Foundation as part of its Conservation In Our Community program.

The program kicks off with a free workshop, “Invite Nature Into Your Yard,” at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center on Wednesday, March 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. The program will introduce residents to The Conservation Foundation’s popular Conservation@Home program encouraging the use of native plant species for landscaping yards.

“We’re delighted that Glen Ellyn is demonstrating a commitment to conservation by getting everyone involved,” Program Director Jan Roehll said.

Glen Ellyn and the Glen Ellyn Park District join six other DuPage County communities ­— Carol Stream, Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Naperville, Warrenville, and Lisle — to engage citizens to become conservation-conscious through various sustainable local projects.

Homeowners will learn what plants attract butterflies as part of the Fox Valley Monarch Corridor Project to restore habitats along the migratory routes of this threatened species. Those involved can become Conservation@Home certified and participate in a garden walk of the homes in the program later this summer.

Plans also are underway to work with the village and park district to plant The Conservation Foundation’s Pollinator Meadow Mix to attract butterflies and other native species. Meadow Mix is an alternative to traditional turf grass in public areas and around municipal buildings and requires minimal upkeep.

The Conservation In Our Community program is possible through a $20,000 grant from the DuPage Foundation with support from DuPage County Stormwater Management. Each municipality has contributed a small portion to help fund this effort and The Conservation Foundation will provide the guidance needed to help implement the projects.

For information on Conservation In Our Community, call Jan Roehll, (630) 428-4500, ext. 121 or emailjroehll@theconservationfoundation.org.

The Conservation Foundation, celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2017, is one of the region’s oldest and largest not-for-profit land and watershed conservation organizations. Since it was founded in 1972, TCF has helped preserve nearly 33,000 acres of open space, restored and cleaned miles of rivers and streams, and educated thousands of kids by engaging them in nature and the outdoors.

Work is focused in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties to preserve and restore nature in your neighborhood. Find out more at theconservationfoundation.org.

Naperville Park Board Passes Resolution to Enhance Monarch Habitat

At their December 13, 2016 meeting, the Naperville Park District Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution to “enhance and expand available habitat for Monarch butterflies and other native pollinators.”

The idea for a resolution came from a local advocacy group, the DuPage Monarch Project, whose members approached the Park District in October 2016 with a request to further enhance Monarch butterfly habitat already present in the District’s parks and to increase awareness of the Monarch’s plight.

The resolution explains that the Monarch butterfly population has declined 90% in the past two decades, partly due to the loss of milkweed plants, which are the only plants on which Monarchs lay their eggs and are the caterpillar’s only food source.

“DuPage Monarch Project is pleased Naperville Park District has joined Warrenville Park District, Fox Valley Park District, City of Warrenville, City of Elmhurst and the Village of Carol Stream in pledging to take action on behalf of Monarchs,” explained Lonnie Morris, Coordinator of the DuPage Monarch Project. “DuPage County is strategically located in the central flyway used by the Monarchs for their migrating journeys and is in a position to make a contribution to their recovery. With the leaders’ commitment and the generous number of acres available in the parks, the Park District will have many opportunities to make an impact for Monarchs.”

One of the Naperville Park District’s core values is environmental education, stewardship and sustainability. “The Monarch butterfly resolution is consistent with the Park District’s ongoing initiatives to maintain milkweed and other native pollinator plants in our parks, “said Director of Recreation Brad Wilson. “The Park District also offers nature based classes, educational information on its website and interpretive signs at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots, Knoch Knolls Nature Center, and throughout the District, explaining the benefits of native plants.”

Native plants bloom around Knoch Knolls Nature Center, the Park District’s center for environmental education. (Photo by Naperville Park District)napervilleparkdistrict

Going forward, the resolution authorizes Park District staff to take the following actions:
• Increase plantings of milkweed and other native pollinator plants on Park District lands
• Install signs near Monarch-friendly plantings to increase public awareness
• Provide education on how to design a Monarch way station
• Refrain from using pesticides and herbicides in areas with milkweed during Monarch butterfly breeding periods
• Refrain from using insecticides in milkweed areas at all times

Emily Hansen and Kathleen McTighe are Naperville residents involved in the Monarch Project who were part of the group that presented their concerns to the Park Board.

“I joined this project because I’m worried about the decline of Monarch butterflies and want to support them by providing suitable habitat, especially since milkweed is so important to their survival,” said Emily Hansen. “To me, the presence and health of Monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators are signs of a healthy environment. When pollinators are flying around plants, searching for nectar, and moving pollen it shows a system that works.”

Hansen, McTighe and Morris were thrilled that the Park Board adopted the Monarch resolution.
“The Naperville Park District continues to impress me by leading as a steward and upholding its values of community and sustainability,” said Hansen. “The steps the District is taking will help ensure that future generations can enjoy nature and the wonder of a Monarch butterfly,” added McTighe.

City of Warrenville Passes Monarch Resolution

“A monarch butterfly is not ‘just an insect’ to me” said Warrenville resident Therese Davis, “nor is it to anyone, if you stop and think about it. Monarch butterflies represent life in transition. An egg hatches, a caterpillar grows, a chrysalis is made, a butterfly emerges.  It is nothing short of pure magic!”

“I see the looks on my granddaughters’ faces and know they can see in a monarch butterfly wonderment and joy beyond words or comprehension,” she added. “Their beauty speaks to our hearts and touches our soul.”

Davis, you might say, is “all in” when it comes to monarch preservation. So she was incredibly delighted when on Oct. 3 the City Council of Warrenville pledged its support to the DuPage Monarch Project, vowing to create habitat for the tiny creatures and use its influence to educate residents on the importance of monarch friendly plantings and limiting pesticide use.

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Therese Davis’ garden provides monarch habitat and was recognized in 2016  as having curb appeal by Warrenville in Bloom, a local beautification organization.

“The City of Warrenville is proud to help support the preservation of the monarch butterfly,” said Warrenville Mayor David Brummel.  “Our Environmental Advisory Commission is committed to spreading the word on the importance and benefit of planting native gardens that contain host plants for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.”

In this resolution the City of Warrenville followed the Warrenville Park District which took the honor of being the first municipal entity anywhere in DuPage County to pledge its support to DuPage Monarch Project when its board passed a monarch resolution on March 17. To date, Warrenville is the only place in DuPage where both the city government and park district have pledged support to the monarch butterfly.

“Municipalities and park districts are in a position to play a critical role in protecting monarch butterflies,” said Lonnie Morris, DMP coordinator. “Loss of habitat is a major component of recent monarch population declines. The monarch population reached a low in 2013 of only 10 percent of its historic population. Land owned by park districts is often suitable for both natural habitat and recreation. Mayors and municipal leaders that sign resolutions make their communities monarch friendly through educational outreach, leading by example on pesticide usage and managing public lands for pollinators.”

The DMP is a partnership of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage, Sierra Club River Prairie Group, The Conservation Foundation and Wild Ones Greater DuPage Chapter formed in 2015. DuPage County, being on the fly route of the iconic butterfly’s 3,000-mile migration from Canada to Mexico is in a position to help. Monarchs need milkweed to survive, as it is the only plant the caterpillars eat. Milkweed has been all but eradicated from farmland and country roadsides due to pesticides. Nectar plants are essential as well as food for the long journey.

“Monarch’s were a delight of my childhood,” said Connie Schmidt, Warrenville resident and chair of the Sierra Club River Prairie Group. Schmidt initiated the signing of both resolutions by calling the first meetings with the park district and Warrenville Environmental Advisory Commission to discuss monarchs. She added, “As a child, I took monarchs for granted. I assumed they would always be there. I am proud that my town is so forward thinking doing its part to maintain the survival of this marvelous butterfly.”

Small Town Goes Big for Monarchs

The monarch message is taking hold in small towns and major cities all along their migration route; protect monarchs by planting milkweed, growing nectar plants and being careful, cautious and sparing with pesticides and mowing.

Taking action on this message became part of Monroe County’s yearlong bicentennial celebration when residents were encouraged to plant 200 monarch gardens for the 200 years of county governance. Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith provided strong support for the initiative by recruiting Alderman and Garden Club President Steve Notheisen to spearhead the effort. Waterloo, the Monroe County seat, is an Illinois city of 10,000 residents located thirty minutes southeast of St Louis. It sits squarely within the monarch’s migration corridor and summer breeding territory.

The City of Waterloo funded the purchase of milkweed seed from Monarch Watch that was distributed along with information on monarchs and milkweed. Notheisen handed out these packets throughout the year, beginning in April at a well attended community meeting, at a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce and a girl scout meeting. Packets were also made available to the public at Waterloo City Hall and the Monroe County Clerk’s Office.

Notheisen kept a supply of packets in his car and became so well known for his work on behalf of monarchs he received numerous requests for seeds when out and about town. He describes himself as a “Johnny Appleseed spreading ‘weed seed’ throughout the community.”

This year, all Waterloo Garden Club members planted milkweed in their butterfly gardens and the Club is planning a monarch waystation at the public library in 2017. The City of Waterloo is looking at converting a large lot adjacent to City Hall into a pollinator garden over the next couple of years.

Notheisen attributes the success of 200 Gardens for Monarchs to Mayor Smith’s enthusiastic support of the project. Local leadership and commitment to creating habitat in Monroe County has added several inviting havens and critically important stops along the monarch’s route between their winter and summer homes.

Please share with your mayor and ask him or her to take the Monarch Pledge.

http://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/About/National-Initiatives/Mayors-Monarch-Pledge.aspx

National Monarch Habitat Restoration Grant Awarded to a DuPage Monarch Project Partner

The Conservation Foundation has been awarded a nearly $250,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create and improve monarch butterfly habitat along the Fox River.

The Fox Valley Monarch Corridor Project, led by The Conservation Foundation, is a collaborative partnership between 12 public and private land organizations that include:

  • Barrington Area Conservation Trust
  • Campton Township
  • Conserve Lake County
  • Dundee Township
  • Fermilab Natural Areas
  • Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
  • Forest Preserve District of Kendall County
  • Forest Preserve District of Kane County
  • Fox Valley Park District
  • Land Conservancy of McHenry County
  • Oswegoland Park District

“We’re very happy to bring all these organizations together to do such important work,” said Dan Lobbes, The Conservation Foundation director of land preservation. “It takes all of us working together to make a significant, lasting difference for the monarchs and for us all.”

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Matching contributions by the participating organizations, which extend across six counties, total nearly $600,000.

The Conservation Foundation is one of 22 nonprofit conservation organizations, government agencies, and other stakeholders to receive an award. A total of $3 million in grants was awarded by NFWS and ultimately will bring nearly $6 million more in matching contributions for the project.

The Fox Valley Monarch Corridor extends over 975 acres and will include the establishment and restoration of 10 multi-acre sites and hundreds of “stepping stone” sites on private land that will connect breeding and migration habitats of monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

In addition to the large natural areas targeted, the project will increase the presence of milkweed in neighborhood yards and local business campuses to help link the pollinators to the larger areas during their migration through the area. Milkweed is essential for monarch survival as their main food source and where they lay eggs.

An important part of the success of the project is engaging more residents in the Conservation @Home and Conservation@Work programs offered by The Conservation Foundation to conserve rain water and create native wildlife habitats that incorporate milkweed plants.

Work is expected to begin in early 2017, and must be completed within the two-year grant award period in 2019.

The grant is funded by the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund, and financially supported by Monsanto Company; U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Geological Survey; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service.

For more information on the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund, go to the National Fish and Wildlife Fund website at nfwf.org.  

The Conservation Foundation, headquartered in Naperville, is one of the region’s oldest and largest not-for-profit land and watershed conservation organizations. Since it was founded in 1972, TCF has helped preserve nearly 33,000 acres of open space, restored and cleaned miles of rivers and streams, and educated thousands of kids by engaging them in nature and the outdoors.

Work is focused in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties to preserve and restore nature in your neighborhood. Find out more at theconservationfoundation.org.

Waystations Awaiting Guest of Honor

Local monarch friendly gardens have been planted, pruned and prepared for the butterfly’s annual arrival but they’re slow to show up this year.

Waystation owners eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first monarch and often make note of the date or observe which blossoms the butterflies choose to feed on. Alison Bock, who has gardened for monarchs in Lombard for 12 years, observed they typically arrive in early June when the privet hedge is blooming. When she hadn’t seen a monarch as of July 1st, anxiety grew, fueled by reports of a devastating storm that hit the overwintering site in March, just as the butterflies were beginning their journey north. It was a great relief when a monarch showed up few days later. The late arrival could be due to weather conditions all along the migration route this past spring. The full impact of the storm on the monarch population won’t be known until they return to Mexico in the fall when the size of the roosting areas is measured.

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Gardening for butterflies is deeply rooted in Bock’s family history. She learned about gardening from many hours spent in the garden with her grandmother.  As they both grew older, Alison did more and more of the bending and reaching, always under the patient and knowledgeable guidance of her grandmother.  “My Grandma told me,” Bock said in a halting voice, “when I die I’ll come back and visit you as a butterfly.”

Her garden is well prepared for butterflies with four varieties of milkweed and a profusion of nectar plants in highly visible shades of red, yellow and orange. She refers to one area as “caterpillar corner,” sheltered by a fence and intentionally left slightly messy to provide hiding places. Bock’s advice to beginner butterfly gardeners is to keep the birds well fed and the feeders at a good distance from where the caterpillars are. Monarch caterpillars have some protection from predators because of the toxic milkweed sap they ingest but they are still at risk.. Birds may sample a caterpillar one time, experience its toxicity and learn to avoid it. Bock wants her garden to give every caterpillar the best chance of survival.

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Caterpillar corner was where Alison discovered the pay-off of monarch gardening. “I’ve seen butterflies and they’re cool, flying fairies,” she shared, “but the first time we saw a ‘cat’ on a milkweed plant we hollered, ‘We did it, it’s working!’”

Over 190 monarch waystations in DuPage have been registered with Monarch Watch, ranging in size from 100 to over 5,000 square feet and spread throughout the county at residences, businesses, schools, churches and parks. The first waystation was registered in 2005 at the Elmhurst home of Jane Foulser, a dedicated monarch conservationist and Elmhurst Garden Club member. Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley recently continued the community’s leadership role in the conservation effort by signing the National Wildlife Federation’s Monarch Pledge.

A waystation is a garden with the amenities monarchs need, nectar and milkweed plants free of insecticides, shelter from the wind, a shallow dish of water or a damp spot for puddling, sunny places with a boulder or rock for basking and an informal gardening style that provides caterpillars a place to hide.

Man made habitat is replacing the 173 million acres of habitat lost through conversion to cropland for the growing ethanol industry, acres of milkweed eradicated from farm fields that are now being maintained with herbicides and urban development. Bock commented as she proudly looked around her garden, “This is my little piece of the planet, I’m doing what I can to make it better. It’s my little eco-system for pollinators and butterflies.”

 

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