Collaborating for Change: Charleston, the “Butterfly Capital” of Illinois

Mayor Brandon Combs of Charleston, Illinois signed the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge in 2019, and since then, has been a leader in monarch and pollinator conservation.

In just over a year, the city has been named a Monarch Champion, signifying their commitment to protect and conserve habitat for the monarch butterfly. This achievement is the product of their remarkable dedication to monarch conservation, and they now join seven other North American cities that have fully completed all 24 actions of the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.

Pollinator Partnerships

This accomplishment was made possible through the efforts of the City of Charleston and Paul Switzer, a biology professor at Eastern Illinois University and founder of the Urban Butterfly Initiative in Charleston. Paul Switzer shares the unique and collaborative efforts in his community in the short video above. Due to their leadership and dedication, the Urban Butterfly Initiative named Charleston the “Butterfly Capital”, of Illinois. 

A painted lady butterfly on purple coneflower
A painted lady butterfly on purple coneflower at the Charleston Carnegie Public Library. The site was planted as a collaboration among the library, the Urban Butterfly Initiative, Eastern Illinois University, and the City of Charleston. Photo: Paul Switzer.

Charleston pursued partnerships with schools and libraries which allowed them to mobilize the entire community to be champions for the monarch butterfly. They collaborated with the Coles County Health Department to install a monarch demonstration garden at the department’s community garden. This garden serves as a reminder that the health and wellness of the community can be improved by the presence of parks, gardens, and other public green spaces that support local native plants and wildlife. 

The Prairie Rivers Network, the National Wildlife Federation’s affiliate partner in Illinois, has been integral in building the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge network across the state. Since 1967, the nonprofit has been organizing to protect the natural rivers and wildlife in Illinois. 

A monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed
A monarch on swamp milkweed at Lake Charleston, which was planted as a collaboration between the Urban Butterfly Initiative, Lincoln Heritage Chapter of Pheasants Forever, and the City of Charleston. Photo: Paul Switzer.

The National Wildlife Federation and Prairie Rivers Network commend Charleston for focusing their efforts on building connections with critical organizations like health departments. Their success showcases that partnerships provide leverage to increase the influence and long term impact of monarch conservation.

If your community is interested in joining the program, visit the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge for more information and learn how to encourage your mayor to sign the pledge.