Making Monarch Conservation Accessible in Columbia Heights, MN

Mayors’ Monarch Pledge

The Mayors’ Monarch Pledge program is proud to celebrate Columbia Heights, Minnesota, for its creative and multi-layered approach to monarch conservation that focuses on building partnerships with diverse groups of organizations, volunteers, and residents. Amáda Márquez Simula became mayor in 2021 and took the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge the same year. Since signing, Mayor Amáda has maintained a “Leadership Circle” status, a designation celebrating the completion of 8 or more action items

The Mayor’s Monarch Pledge is a strong network of communities and mayors that are working to create healthy, sustainable communities that support people, pollinators, and wildlife. 

Columbia Heights, MN, is a diverse, vibrant community with large populations of first and second-generation immigrants. For Mayor Amáda Marquez Simula, who is Mexican-American, such diversity presented opportunities to engage residents, businesses, schools, and other local partners in becoming advocates for monarchs and other pollinators.

We can all contribute to a healthy, sustainable, wildlife-friendly community

Since taking the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, Mayor Amáda made it a priority to engage property owners, renters, and non-gardeners to keep the mission of monarch conservation as accessible as possible. Through a partnership with the local nonprofit HeightsNEXT, any resident in Columbia Heights can add to and track monarch habitats in Columbia Heights via a live pollinator tracker. Mayor Amáda and volunteers work to ensure that all residents know the basics: embrace sustainable landscaping, limit the use of chemicals, and plant native! Public events were great opportunities to encourage folks to plant native milkweed and other native plants. In addition to providing free native milkweed seeds at every event, renters or those who may not have the space to garden, were connected with opportunities to volunteer at a local community garden.

Local library staff read a book about monarchs to youth in both English and Spanish at the 2022 Bilingual Monarch Festival
Credit: Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula

Each of us plays a critical role in contributing to a healthy, sustainable, wildlife-friendly community. Even those who are new to gardening or prefer other outdoor activities can support monarch conservation efforts. Columbia Heights developed events that specifically engage non-gardeners in the community-wide movement to embrace sustainability and conservation. Book lovers could enjoy and participate in community conversations about environmentalism and stewardship as part of the city’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge book club in 2021. Families and art enthusiasts could attend a watercolor monarch painting class at the local senior center. This senior center was also the prime location to host an outdoor screening of “Flight of the Butterflies” an inspiring documentary that follows monarch butterflies’ multi-generational migration across North America. This family-fun event brought together dozens of community members.

Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula at a watercolor monarch painting class at the local senior center
Credit: Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula

Hosting a Community-Wide Monarch Festival 

In 2021, Columbia Heights hosted its first-ever Monarch Festival. They had 125 attendees and 11 sponsor booths. The festival returned in 2022 as a bilingual monarch festival that celebrated migration, immigration, and inclusion. In a community where Spanish is the first language of 55% of students and there are many first and second-generation immigrants, it’s essential to have a monarch festival that celebrates culture, community, and conservation. These monarch festivals have been so successful that this now annual event will return to Columbia Heights on August 9th, 2023.

Mexican ballet folklorico dancers beneath a rainbow at the 2022 Columbia Heights Bilingual Monarch Festival
Credit: Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula

Mayor Amáda attributes the success of the city’s monarch conservation efforts to its partnerships with organizations and individuals that have similar goals. The city’s partnership with HeightsNEXT helps alleviate the financial burden of certain activities. Organizations such as faith groups, master gardeners, other city and school programs, girl & boy scouts, and Rotary are ideal partners for this work.

When it came down to planning for a Monarch Festival that could engage multiple sectors of the community, these partnerships were critical. Most of these partners worked as “sponsors” and had booths up at the monarch festival. Additionally, Master Gardeners and Master Water Stewards were great groups to get volunteers and resources as these certifications require volunteer hours.

Some of the Monarch Festival Highlights Include: 

  • Live music and dance from a local Mariachi group
  • Pollinator education booths 
  • Food trucks 
  • Encanto dance party 
  • Monarch costume parade 
  • Mexican Ballet Folklorico performances 

The National Wildlife Federation is proud to partner with Mayor Amáda and all of the impassioned residents, volunteers, students, families, and organizations in Columbia Heights that are advocating for monarchs and other pollinators. 

Tell your mayor or local leader to take the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge before April 30th and access dozens of resources that will help expand quality habitat for monarchs and support diverse community engagement: 

Family enjoying a monarch education event in Columbia Heights
Credit: Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula