Monarch Butterflies: Cities Team Up To Protect Monarchs

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Bryan and College Station are teaming up to help Monarch butterflies, thanks to the ongoing efforts of Texas A&M University scientist Craig Wilson.

Wilson, a senior research associate in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education, has maintained a registered Monarch Waystation for the past six years at the USDA-sponsored People’s Garden, located across the street from College Station’s Wolf Pen Creek Park. He routinely hosts elementary and middle school student groups, educating them in the basics of scientific inquiry and encouraging them to explore their inner scientists by observing the bounty of nature.

This past December, Wilson contacted College Station Mayor Nancy Berry and Bryan Mayor Jason Bienski, asking both to commit their respective cities to efforts intended to help save the Monarchs, whose national numbers have declined by about 90 percent in recent years. Both mayors subsequently agreed to take the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, a new, national campaign working with mayors and local government chief executives to identify and execute specific steps to help Monarchs and other pollinators thrive.

“I would like to add my thanks to those of the Monarch butterflies currently overwintering in Mexico awaiting their return through Texas in the spring,” Wilson says. “By your efforts and by involving citizen scientists, you are helping to ensure that the magnificent and magical Monarch butterfly migration between Canada and Mexico through Texas will survive for future generations to marvel at and to enjoy.”

Monarchs, which are found across the United States, numbered some one billion in 1996 but have since fallen victim to a variety of threats, including loss of habitat due to agricultural practices, development, and cropland conversion. Degradation of wintering habitats in Mexico has had a negative impact on the species, which now is estimated to number around 50 million – a figure Wilson says is up from a historic low of 33 million in 2013-14.

“Mayors and other local government officials play a pivotal role in advancing Monarch butterfly conservation in urban and suburban areas,” says Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “By working together, we can ensure that every American child has a chance to experience majestic Monarchs in their backyards and communities.”

As part of the campaign, cities and municipalities commit to creating habitats and educating citizens on ways they can make a difference in their own homes and neighborhoods. Mayors who take the pledge commit to at least three of 25 specific actions to help save the Monarch butterfly. Some of these actions include creating Monarch-friendly demonstration gardens at city hall, adding milkweed, and nectar-producing plants in community gardens, and changing mowing schedules to allow milkweed to grow unimpeded.

Both mayors are working with their respective parks and recreation departments to decide which pledge-related actions to implement. In the meantime, both say they are grateful to the National Wildlife Federation for bringing awareness to the Monarch’s plight.

“Our parks system represents more than 1,300 beautiful acres, which means we have countless opportunities to create and sustain Monarch-friendly habitats,” Berry says. “We’ll continue to do our part to ensure College Station is a helpful stop for these beautiful travelers.”

“The Bryan/College Station community is rapidly growing,” Bienski says. “It is important for cities to be cognizant of the impact of development activities on nature. For this reason, I join Mayor Berry in pledging to work with our City of Bryan Parks and Recreation Department to take actions to help save the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch adds one more dimension of beauty to our community, and we hope to play a part in saving the Monarch migration through Texas.”

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. Learn more about the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and other activities at www.NWF.org/News.

For additional information on Wilson’s scientific outreach efforts and related Center for Mathematics and Science Education initiatives, visit cmse.tamu.edu.
Courtesy of the Department of Science at Texas A&M University