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Austin, Texas Creates Habitat for the Declining Monarch Butterfly
The City of Austin, Texas sits at a critical migration point for the monarch butterfly. In the spring, Austin is one of the first places in the U.S. that the monarch stops to lay its eggs on milkweed, so the next generation can continue the journey north. During the fall migration, monarchs stop to feed on nectar plants because they need to fatten up on their way to Mexico where they will overwinter.
Fortunately the City of Austin is already a haven for wildlife – NWF named Austin the most wildlife-friendly city in America earlier this year. So it’s no surprise that Austin is among the first cities taking significant action to help the declining monarch butterfly.
In May of 2015, the City of Austin passed a city council resolution designed to incorporate more native milkweed into the city’s landscape:
“The City Manager is directed to collaborate with the local offices of the National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and initiate a process for incorporating the cultivation of native milkweed where feasible into the city’s landscape portfolio at Austin City Hall, city-owned buildings and properties, as well as the city’s vast preserve lands, parks, and open spaces.” – The City of Austin
This is a big win for the monarch butterfly and all the citizens of Austin who love this iconic and declining species. Austin manages nearly 20,000 acres of land through the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and another 7,000 through the Austin Water Utility Wildlife Conservation Division. While no one would imagine that all of these lands will be managed with the monarch as its primary or only constituent, this resolution represents a significant step to plant more milkweed on city land.
The city of Austin also owns and operates 500 buildings and properties, ranging from libraries and police stations to Austin City Hall and the Austin Nature and Science Center. New demonstration gardens in prominent locations such as these could engage thousands of citizens each day and promote the planting of milkweed and pollinator friendly plants.
While this new resolution is a big boost for monarch conservation in Austin, the city has other efforts that help create habitat for the monarch, pollinators and other wildlife.
- Since 2007, the City of Austin has been a certified NWF Community Wildlife Habitat and is in fact the largest certified city in the U.S.
- The City of Austin established the Wildlife Austin team to promote the creation and conservation of wildlife habitats through community-wide collaboration and public education.
- Wildlife Austin is running a neighborhood challenge to encourage citizen pollinator and wildlife gardens.
- Wildlife Austin hosts an annual NWF Habitat Stewards training program to train local leaders who can support native plant and pollinator gardens at schools and throughout the city (link to application).
- The Austin Parks and Recreation Department has trained its maintenance crew to positively identify milkweed and to understand the biology of the monarch so that mowing occurs at the right times.
- Austin’s Grow Green program supports monarch conservation by encouraging the reduction or elimination of pesticides and by helping citizens create sustainable backyards.
Austin is doing amazing work to help monarch butterflies, pollinators and all wildlife.
Please leave a comment below and tell us what your city is doing to help save the monarch!