Working together for Western monarch conservation

The Central Oregonian reports on the Land Trust's statewide efforts to help the Western monarch butterfly.
By Ramona McCallister
Central Oregonian

 

Funding from U.S. Forest Service International Programs is helping the Deschutes Land Trust and Western Monarch Advocates to launch a statewide effort to help build new habitat by planting more native milkweed and other pollinator plants

For the third year, the Crooked River Wetland Complex has joined forces with Deschutes Land Trust and Monarch Advocates to boost habitat for the imperiled Western monarch butterfly in Oregon.

Thanks to funding from U.S. Forest Service International Programs, the Deschutes Land Trust and Western Monarch Advocates will launch a statewide effort to help build new habitat by planting more native milkweed and other pollinator plants for monarch butterflies in Central Oregon, Southern Oregon, the Umpqua River Valley, and in Portland.

The two groups have partnered with several regional groups that are located within the monarch butterfly migration route and where projects can make an immediate impact in the quality of habitat for the butterflies. All projects will boost and create new habitat by planting native milkweed, and nectar-bearing plants selected to continuously provide nectar throughout the migrating season.

Deschutes Land Trust is a nonprofit organization based in Bend. They work throughout Central Oregon to conserve land for wildlife and scenic views in local communities. In a prior interview last year, Stewardship Director for Deschutes Land Trust Amanda Egertson explained that they have started getting more involved in monarch conservation.

"That has evolved a bit into pollinator conservation more broadly. But it really began as monarch conservation."

Last year, Deschutes Land Trust partnered with the Crooked River Wetlands Complex to get more of these plants in the community for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. They also partnered with academic coach for Crook County School District Sarah Klann to encourage students to help with the projects for the monarch butterflies.

"She is amazing," said Egertson of Klann's involvement with the monarch projects. "She is my monarch champion in Prineville."

Last school year, Klann had brought in some chrysalides to a fifth-grade Barnes Butte Elementary classroom.

"The kids got to watch them grow, eat milkweed, they formed their chrysalides, and they came out of their chrysalides," explained Egertson of the experience. "I came back into their classroom once and they had their adult monarchs and tagged them and released them. It was a really powerful, wonderful experience."

Egertson's education background has involved butterfly and songbird research for her master's degree in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. She has worked for Deschutes Land Trust for more than 17 years. She has led butterfly tours in the summer, and when doing large-scale restoration projects on their preserves like flood plain stream restorations, she indicated that they always make sure to include pollinator-friendly species that bloom from spring through fall.

The Deschutes Land Trust distributed free native milkweed and other native-friendly plants to be planted in backyard gardens, schools and local parks throughout Central Oregon, including Prineville. They also distributed them in Bend, La Pine, Sisters, Madras and Warm Springs. The Land Trust will also plant more native milkweed and other native pollinator-friendly plants in two of their major Central Oregon restoration projects, along Whychus Creek at Rimrock Ranch and in Prineville, again, at the Ochoco Preserve.

In addition to these locations in Prineville, they also provided pollinator plants, including milkweed, at Stein's Pillar Elementary and Crooked River Elementary. They are creating monarch waystations at the elementary schools, where the monarchs can stop on their journey to benefit from the pollinator plants.

The Western monarch butterfly population is in steep decline. Overwintering populations are less than 1% of historic population sizes, dropping from numbers in the millions to fewer than 2,000 recorded individuals this past year. Many factors are contributing to this precipitous decline, including climate change, loss of overwintering habitat, pesticide use, and migration/breeding corridor habitat fragmentation.

In the state of Oregon, the most important thing that can be done to help Western monarchs is to improve and expand migration and breeding pathways by planting pesticide-free native milkweed and other native pollinator-friendly plants that provide nectar resources from early spring through late fall. That's why the Deschutes Land Trust and Western Monarch Advocates have joined forces to help plant habitat throughout Oregon.

The Deschutes Land Trust envisions a future of strong and healthy natural and human communities—where residents work together to conserve and care for the lands that make Central Oregon an incredible place to live, work, and grow. As Central Oregon's locally based, nationally accredited land trust, the Deschutes Land Trust has conserved and continues to care for more than 17,523 acres since 1995.

The Western Monarch Advocates serve as an overarching entity to encourage and facilitate communication and interaction of groups and individuals committed to restoring the Western monarch butterfly population—regardless of their affiliation or location—in the hope that the shared knowledge will empower each of them to improve and better achieve restoration goals within their own respective affiliation or location. For more information, visit www.westernmonarchadvocates.com.