Missoula Butterfly Week
Throwback to Celebrating Montana's Pollinators in May
In front of a room of City Council members and citizens, Mayor John Engen of Missoula, Montana proclaimed the week of May 15th as Missoula Butterfly Week. He ended the proclamation with, “And that’s pretty cool.” And so it was.
The proclamation was the product of Mayor Engen signing the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge – the first mayor in Montana to do so. These butterflies are a bit of a rarity in Missoula compared to other species because Montana is on the outskirts of the monarch butterfly’s western migration corridor. However, pledging to restore monarch habitat will undoubtedly also benefit our more common pollinators like Montana’s state butterfly, the mourning cloak.
The community celebrated Missoula Butterfly Week accordingly. That Tuesday, the Native Plant Gardens at the University of Montana’s Payne Family Native American Center became a Certified Wildlife Habitat, the first on UM’s campus. With native plants gathered in sections representing each of Montana’s Indian reservations, this garden is a wonderful public example of the variety of ecological, provisional and cultural values that Montana native plants provide.
Following the butterfly theme, on Wednesday, a group of wildlife and native plant enthusiasts teamed up to plant milkweed on the National Wildlife Federation’s elk winter range in Missoula. The showy milkweed seedlings, important host plants for monarch caterpillars and a source of nectar for bees and butterflies, were cultivated by members of the Clark Fork Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society and planted with help from NWF volunteers. Native plant and wildlife enthusiasts alike delighted in providing improved butterfly habitat.
The butterfly love continued that Friday, on Endangered Species Day, when the Montana Natural History Center partnered with the Endangered Species Coalition and the National Wildlife Federation to introduce a new outdoor play space and butterfly garden at the center. Children from local schools planted milkweed seedlings, and Mayor Engen dedicated the new garden at the end of the event in celebration of Missoula Butterfly Week.
These diverse activities all support the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiatve, a partnership between NWF, the City of Missoula, and numerous community nonprofit and educational partners.
Missoula Butterfly Week affirmed the appreciation Montanans have for their wildlife, and support for the butterflies didn’t stop there. Since May, word of our Missoula Community Habitat has continued to spread, and new Certified Wildlife Habitats have been popping up all over town. With a supportive mayor and an overwhelming enthusiasm from local groups, I have high hopes for the future of pollinators in the Garden City.