A series of events in June organized by the Missourians for Monarchs collaborative spotlighted the important role of pollinators in the Show-Me State and beyond.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens proclaimed June 19-25 as Pollinator Week in the state, recognizing birds and insects as “essential partners of farmers and ranchers in producing much of our food supply.” The proclamation, coinciding with National Pollinator Week, was presented June 21 at a press conference in the Carnahan Memorial Garden in Jefferson City.
Later that evening, special guests and members of the Missourians for Monarchs collaborative attended a private reception featuring Charles Wooley, deputy regional director for the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Ty Vaughn, vice president of global regulatory for Monsanto. Both speakers praised Missouri for its unprecedented efforts in monarch and pollinator conservation.
“I don’t know any other grassroots effort more important than what is going on here in Missouri,” Wooley said. “It takes all of us working together to ensure we have a future filled with pollinators like monarchs.”
During the past two decades, monarch butterfly populations have declined by an estimated 90 percent due to factors such as loss of critical habitat, namely milkweed, the only plant used by monarchs during egg and larval stages. MFA Incorporated is a funding partner in the Missourians for Monarchs collaborative, which formed in 2015 as a statewide initiative to address this issue. MFA territory falls in the epicenter of the monarch’s breeding and migratory path from Mexico to Canada.
The collaborative also includes other ag and conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, utilities, cooperatives and agribusinesses such as Monsanto. Vaughn said an important part of his job is communicating with farmers about how they can turn unproductive farmland into valuable pollinator habitat.
“We’ve begun to look at agriculture as a system that incorporates everything farmers do, including conservation practices,” he said. “With today’s digital tools, we can map fields and show areas that may be better off in pollinator habitat than in crops. I believe we’ll look back on this time and place and say that’s when ag and conservation began to coexist to make it a better place for pollinators.”
Missouri’s Pollinator Week observance culminated in the first-ever “Monarch Mania!” on June 22 at the Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City. More than 1,400 visitors took part in activities focused on monarch butterflies, pollinators and native plants. Runge officials said it was the most-attended weekday event in the center’s history.
Overall, Pollinator Week events were intended to raise awareness about the plight of pollinators and help further the Missourians for Monarchs’ goal of establishing 385,000 new acres of habitat across the state during the next 20 years on both private and public land.
“The monarch is our ambassador for all pollinators,” said Jason Jenkins, Missourians for Monarchs coordinator. “Interest keeps growing in our collaborative’s efforts, all because of this unique, iconic species that has catapulted conservation in a way we’ve never seen before.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/MissouriansForMonarchs.