By Sally Stovall
“North American monarch butterflies are in trouble. Threats, including climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss are having a devastating impact on their populations. Unless we act now to help the Monarch, this amazing animal could disappear in our lifetime.” -- US Fish & Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating the status of the monarch butterfly for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Faced with the possibility of extinction of this beloved species, communities locally and nationally are mobilizing to increase monarch habitat. That’s where Oak Park and River Forest come in. It turns out that urban and suburban areas are the monarch’s best hope for survival.
To build awareness and engage the public, a core group of partners is hosting a campaign kick-off with two community gatherings at the Oak Park Main Library on Tues., Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. The organizing group includes West Cook Wild Ones, River Forest Sustainability Committee, Seven Generations Ahead, the Green Guides Network (a project of PlanItGreen) and Green Community Connections. This event is free and open to the public.
River Forest Village President, Catherine Adduci, along with nearly 200 mayors across the country has signed on to the Mayors for Monarchs, initiative through which they agree to take actions to support monarch habitat in their respective communities.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, Kristen J. Voorhies, Ph.D., a member of the monarch evaluation team, will be present at the morning session to share information on her research and to provide resources for individuals and groups that wish to support efforts to strengthen monarch populations. Dr. Voorhies says “Communities can help monarchs by planting milkweed and nectar plants! Every little bit of habitat helps. Enhancing habitat for monarchs and pollinators is everyone’s responsibility. We cannot do it alone.”
West Cook Wild Ones members will present a Step-by-Step Monarch Garden flyer with easy instructions for planting and managing a small garden area with plants native to our area that monarchs need for habitat and food. While habitat restoration is important throughout the entire monarch range, the North Central region, Illinois is a priority area for efforts to enhance summer breeding habitat.
Other program highlights will include: Excerpts from two documentaries being shown at this year’s One Earth Film Fest: “Flight of the Butterflies” and “Hometown Habitat,” and learning about upcoming events that support this initiative including West Cook Wild Ones’ Conference: The Naturally Beautiful Garden at Triton College on February 11, with award winning landscape architect, Rick Darke, presenting on use of native plants to create beautiful landscapes and gardens, and author, Heather Holm presenting on Native Trees and Shrubs to Support Pollinators and Birds.