Government going out of its way to help monarchs
It has not been unusual in this space to throw brickbats at Ohio governmental agencies in charge, one way or another, over issues of questionable land stewardship. But here lobs a big rosy bouquet to the state for moving forward on what is known as the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI).
Specifically, OPHI and the Ohio Department of Transportation are aiming in a grassroots project this fall ultimately to change the scorched-earth landscape game by changing public attitudes and government approaches to roadside habitat management. This project will promote plants that help birds, bees, butterflies, and grasslands nesting wildlife.
The flagship wildlife species here is the familiar but now-threatened, orange-and-black monarch butterfly, which is totally dependent on milkweed for its life cycle. Given the drastic decline in the population of the monarch butterfly in recent years because of intensive industrial agriculture and overmowing of roadsides, OPHI and ODOT are asking the public for help in creating new habitats by collecting milkweed seed pods this autumn.
Simply clip off and collect the seed pods, and deliver then by Oct. 30 to your county’s soil and water conservation district office. The seeds will be used to establish new plantings for the monarch butterfly throughout Ohio. Here is a web site showing the addresses of each of the 88 counties’ SCWD offices: http://www.agri.ohio.gov/divs/SWC/SearchLocalSWCD.aspx .
An array of federal, state, and private conservation agencies and organizations agree that pollinator wildlife species such as bees and butterflies are in trouble. Pollinators have been suffering from population decline primarily due to loss of habitat which provides pollen, nectar, and host plants which are vital to the survival of most pollinators. Over the last 10 years, there have been several species of pollinators that have vanished from Ohio. More recently, monarch butterfly populations have plummeted to alarmingly low levels. Poor honeybee health is a critical issue also linked to the decline of pollinator habitat.
These pollinators are responsible for helping produce about one third of the world-wide food supply for people by simply moving pollen from plant to plant resulting in pollination, which produces apples, almonds, and many other fruits and vegetables. Here in Ohio, OPHI was established to inform the public, landowners, farmers, and government agencies of the importance of pollinators and the habitat they need to survive.
Members of the initiative are the core professionals that provide education, outreach, and technical assistance to all that have an interest in pollinators and protecting our food supply. They include:
Ohio Department of Transportation, American Electric Power, Pheasants Forever, Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Division of Wildlife, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Ohio State University Extension, Ohio State University/School of Environment and Natural Resources, Wright State University Biological Sciences, and the Levin Family Foundation.
You can lend a hand in this groundbreaking, cooperative initiative by collecting milkweed pods. This initiative can change the way we think about our roadsides and indeed the rest of the open lands that we and wildlife depend on, virtually for life.