If Monarch butterflies could rate the top places to dine and rest in the Midwest, eastern Iowa’s Linn County would make a run for the top spot.
Hundreds of Linn County residents, corporations, organizations and local governments are laying out the welcome mat for monarchs and other pollinators, working together to plant and care for milkweed and other native plants that the butterflies need throughout their lifecycle. The City of Cedar Rapids has committed to planting 1,000 acres of monarch-supporting native plants on public land throughout the city by 2022. The nonprofit Monarch Research Project (MRP), based in Linn County, has challenged the county’s private landowners to plant another 9,000 acres of native plants over the next 10 years.
“This is a collaborative effort,” says Clark McLeod, co-founder of the Monarch Research Project. “We need all hands on deck if we hope to re-establish the monarch population.”
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help with cost-share for the city and county monarch habitat plantings. Also in the past year, INHF partnered with MRP and other local conservation organizations to offer workshops to landowners interested in making their land more monarch-friendly. And landowners responded: More than 500 individuals attended the two workshops, offered in the spring and fall of 2017.
“Attendance at the Linn County events has been amazing,” said INHF Vice President Anita O’Gara. “It’s exciting to see so many passionate landowners looking to make a difference to help monarch populations and other wildlife, and try conservation on their own land.”
When asked what she hoped to learn by attending the Linn Landowner Forum, Linn County landowner Cynthia Monroe said, “I wasn’t sure. I just wanted to support any efforts to preserve and restore our land.”
Landowners with more than three acres were specifically invited to the spring workshop. Featured speakers shared their experiences restoring large- and small-scale prairies, as well as their motivation for permanently protecting their land to ensure monarch habitat into the future.
“We are in this for the long-haul,” said INHF President Joe McGovern. “We want to help landowners plant and care for native plants today, and explore ways to protect their land for habitat for decades to come. We’re thankful for the partnership with the Monarch Research Project that’s bringing conservation to Iowans on an accessible scale.”
The second workshop was promoted especially to landowners with one to five acres of land. Sessions included how to plant and care for prairies, how to manage woodland invasive plants and how to adopt roadways to establish micro-prairies. Those who attended the fall workshop were also provided Iowa ecotype prairie seeds to establish 200-square-foot micro-prairies on their property.
“It’s nice to help people realize that they can implement important conservation efforts no matter where they live.,” said McGovern. “Monarchs aren’t picky. Every effort counts.”
Plans have already begun for 2018 workshops for Linn County landowners. Partners know, however, that 10,000 acres is not enough to fully help the monarch. MRP hopes to replicate Linn County’s successes elsewhere. The goal is for monarchs to return, as well as generations of their offspring, not only to Linn County, but throughout the Midwest.
SAVE THE DATE: The next workshop for Linn County landowners will be Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.