Restoring monarch habitat – on an Illinois right-of-way

(Photo by Mike Budd/USFWS)

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, in coordination with Pheasants Forever, has collaborated on native wildflower planting on an Ameren and Exelon electric transmission line right-of-way in Dewitt, Ill. – a creative effort to restore monarch butterfly habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release Thursday, June 28.

The Partners Program provides landowners with technical and financial assistance to create and restore habitat across the Midwest.

The original vision was conceptualized by Pheasants Forever, Exelon and Ameren to create monarch- and pollinator-friendly habitat that can be seen by the public, the release said. The Partners Program utilized dedicated monarch funding to purchase 125 prairie plants to contribute to the 65-acre restoration project site.

Partners biologists helped plant butterfly weed, blackeyed susan, tall gayfeather, New England aster, common milkweed and several other species around the project site.

The plants will provide a variety of resources – for example, common milkweed provides monarchs an opportunity to lay eggs and serves as a food source to young caterpillars, and New England aster provides nectar to adult monarchs to fuel their fall migration.

According to the release, the most important phase in the project was eradicating tall fescue and bush honeysuckle from the project area for the “release” of common milkweed, which was already in the soil, waiting for the fescue to be removed. The common milkweed that germinated this spring is already supporting monarchs, with caterpillars observed in mid-May, according to the release.

By working with external partners such as Pheasants Forever, Exelon, Ameren, the Illinois DNR and Van Horn Inc., the Partners Program was able to leverage monarch funding to extend the amount of restoration on the ground. The Partners Program contributed $500 to the project, which in total cost more than $15,000, meaning each dollar spent by the Partners Program was matched 30-to-1, the release said.

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