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Monarch butterflies have more than 100,000 acres of new habitat in Wisconsin

Wisconsin DNR
Wisconsin DNR

The monarch butterfly population in the eastern U.S. has declined by more than 80 percent in the past 20 years.

That’s such a big decline that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently put monarchs on the waiting list to be protected by the Endangered Species Act.

But conservationists across Wisconsin aren’t waiting to take action.

According to research from the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative, individuals and organizations across the state have created hundreds of thousands more acres of monarch habitat in the past three years.

Additionally, those groups are pledging to plant another 120 million milkweed stems by 2038.

It’s part of an effort to reverse the butterfly’s decline, and it extends all the way to northern Wisconsin, where people are planting their own pollinator gardens.

Ron Burger, for example, planted his Monarch Wildlife Wayside Refuge a decade ago.

“It all started out with the butterflies,” he says. “I knew there was a big decline and I wanted to do my share.”

Meanwhile, organizations like the Lincoln County Pollinator Project have established their prairie habitats more recently.

Tom Boisvert, the county’s conservation manager, says Lincoln County planted the habitat just a few years ago, in 2019.

“Now that it’s established, it’s not looking like a weed patch anymore,” he says. “We’re starting to see a lot of beautiful flowers out there.”

Projects like these not only save the time and costs of maintaining a lawn, but they also successfully increase the population of pollinators.

In the ten years since he started his garden, Burger says he sees more monarchs every year.

“They’re flying around all my plants in the back part of the property,” he describes. “They were just all over the place.”

Providing habitat for monarchs is especially important because Wisconsin has the fifth highest number of monarchs in North America – a statistic which experts say highlights the importance of the state as a monarch breeding ground.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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