Columbus, Neb. - Nearly two years ago the Save Our Monarchs Foundation and Nebraska Public Power District teamed up on a project to enhance the declining population of the endangered Monarch butterfly. NPPD provided 50 acres of land near its Beatrice Power Station to raise milkweeds and other native flowering plants in an effort to help that population grow.
With the support from a recent financial grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Save Our Monarchs Foundation (SOM) is working with NPPD to utilize three new locations this year. From Sept. 16-19 SOM will be planting several hundred native milkweed and other wildflowers provided by the Prairie Plains Resource Institute on land adjoining Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, Neb.
Monarch habitat consists of bio-diverse landscapes that contain milkweed, the Monarch caterpillar’s lone food source, and other nectar and pollen sources; have a nearby water source; and are protected from mowing, pesticides or disturbances from development.
“We were approached by NPPD Director Mary Harding in 2015 to see if we had land available near one of our operations that could be managed for this use. The initial site west of our Beatrice Power Station has done well as far as growth of what was planted in 2015,” said NPPD Corporate Environmental Manager Joe Citta. “We are pleased to play a continuing role in this program to help sustain a potentially endangered species.”
Later this fall SOM will begin restoration for milkweed and native flowers along a transmission line right-of-way along Interstate 80 at Lexington, and at NPPD’s Cottonwood Ranch located along the central part of the Platte River, which is part of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Plan.
As part of the activity that will happen near Cooper, SOM will also enhance the Langdon Bend Wildlife Management Area, located south of Cooper Nuclear Station, owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Planting milkweed and other native flowers not only assist in restoring the declining population of the Monarch butterfly, but also makes excellent habitat for other vital and diminishing species, including native bees and migratory and ground-nesting birds.
“The scientific research is in, we need more habitat,” says Ward Johnson, Executive Director of the foundation. The group is working on the eastern migratory flyway that extends from the 100th parallel running through Nebraska to the eastern seaboard of Canada, the US and Mexico, and from which Monarchs head south to over-winter in central Mexico.
Randall Gilbert, the group’s program director, says “We are not scientists. We are concerned citizens focused on getting Monarch and other pollinator plants in the ground and increasing habitat. We are unceasingly passionate about this work.”
These efforts are part of SOM’s “Corridors for Pollinators” program, which works with utility companies and other right-of-way holders to manage properties as pollinator habitat while also taking care of business and regulatory needs. To date the program has helped restore or enhance over 4,000 acres since beginning in 2015, and this year provided over 2,000 pollinator plant plugs to other entities helping to establish a quality pollinator habitat throughout the state, including Omaha’s City Sprouts community garden program, Lincoln Parks and Recreation, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The program has an additional 8,000 acres it will be enhancing and restoring over the coming year, making it one of the highest impact pollinator habitat programs in North America. SOM is actively seeking other companies with easement properties to contact them to discuss how they can help make a difference on this issue, which connects many of the most pressing conservation issues of our era, including water quality, soil health, erosion, and biodiversity.