Minnetonka, Minnesota, just a few miles west of Minneapolis, is working hard to help save the imperiled monarch butterfly. Minnetonka Mayor Brad Wiersum took the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge in 2018, building on the work of the city’s Natural Resources Division and Mayor Terry Schneider’s 2017 pledge. Through the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge™, U.S. cities like Minnetonka are working to improve the outlook for the monarch butterfly by committing to creating essential habitat for the monarch butterfly, pollinators, other wildlife, and to educate residents about how they can make a difference at home and in their community.

More than 600 mayors and other heads of local and tribal government are taking action to help save the monarch butterfly, an iconic and beloved species whose population has declined so severely that just last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that protections under the Endangered Species Act are warranted, but precluded by other listing actions.

Starting in 2018, Mayor Wiersum and the City of Minnetonka began new efforts to get the word out about the plight of the monarch butterfly and offer support to residents that wanted to act to protect this valuable pollinator. For the last four years, Minnetonka’s City Council has approved a proclamation declaring July as Monarch and Pollinator Awareness Month.  

A signed proclamation by the City of Minnetonka declaring the month of July as "Monarch and Pollinator Awareness Month."
Minnetonka’s Monarch and Pollinator Awareness Month Proclamation.

The city also launched an annual Pollinator Field Day which has increased over the years to about 300 participants in 2019 and will continue in 2021 (after a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions). The festival includes a native plant sale, pollinator-themed crafts (like making milkweed seed balls), and other educational activities. 

A group of people buy plants during a native plant sale.
Residents attend the Pollinator Field Day in 2019. Photo by Sahnje McGonigle (Sun Sailor).

Minnetonka, Minnesota became a “Monarch Champion” city in the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge program in late 2020. The city has steadily increased its efforts over time, creating 19 acres of habitat across backyards, parks and rights-of-way and engaging thousands of residents since joining the program.

A city employee plants a native plug in Minnetonka.
City staff participating in fall planting.
Photo by Christine Petersen.

The city has worked to encourage its community garden residents to plant pollinator-friendly plants, provided education on ways to reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizer, supported partnerships with local schools, and promoted community science participation (also known as citizen science). Among other great efforts, the city also amended ordinances to support pollinator lawns and meadows as well as ordinances to ensure developers incorporate native plants in landscape plans. 

In 2019, volunteers planted native trees and shrubs and seeded more than 30 species of perennial forbs in a city outlot. The site attracts monarchs (including caterpillars), diverse wild bees and other pollinators. Natural resources staff also continue to manage outlot plantings that were installed in 2019. 

Congratulations to the City of Minnetonka on achieving Monarch Champion status and for its vital work to help save the monarch butterfly!  

Your community can join the network too as the National Wildlife Federation is welcoming new pledges (through March 31) at nwf.org/mayorsmonarchpledge.