TRIBAL ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION FOR MONARCHS: RESTORING CRITICAL HABITAT

Monarch butterflies are in big trouble, and the Euchee Butterfly Farm is doing something about it with the help of Monarch Watch and seven tribal partners in Oklahoma. 


The iconic butterfly is currently under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act and has seen its population take a catastrophic drop of over 90% during the last 20 years, primarily due to habitat loss.  Each year, monarch butterflies begin a remarkable migratory journey of up to 3,000 miles from their summer breeding grounds in the northern United States and southern Canada to their overwintering grounds in Mexico, then return north in the spring. Oklahoma occupies a critical location along the monarch migration route, acting as a breeding ground for the first generation of monarchs in the spring and supplying the nectar plants in the fall to fuel the long journey to Mexico.

 
In 2015, the Euchee Butterfly Farm began a unique partnership with Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, the Osage Nation, the Seminole Nation, the Miami Nation, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma to restore critical habitat for monarchs and other threatened pollinators on tribal lands.  The project's goal is to remedy the loss of milkweed and nectar sources that is the primary cause of the monarch’s decline, and just as importantly, to fulfill traditional cultural obligations to protect the land and the animals that dwell on it. It is the only tribal coalition in the world working on monarch conservation. 


Currently, monarch habitat restoration efforts in Oklahoma are limited by the lack of available native seed sources, the lack of greenhouses dedicated to producing native plants, and the need for technical training on how to create and implement conservation plans. With the support of a $248,007 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, all of these issues are being addressed, culminating in 350 acres of monarch habitat being restored through planting 35,000 milkweed plants and 28,000 native wildflowers grown in tribal greenhouses from locally collected seed. Grant funds will also support the creation of demonstration monarch/pollinator gardens at tribal headquarters for outreach and education efforts.

The project has received additional support through a $50,000 ConocoPhillips SPIRIT of Conservation grant and a $15,000 Monarch Joint Venture grant to train tribal youth in the horticultural skills needed to create native seed banks and to grow the native nectar plants and milkweeds needed for monarch and pollinator habitat restoration.  Please click here to learn how you can contribute.
 

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