Partnership helping monarchs

Volunteer help important

The Superior Watershed Partnership is helping local monarch butterfly populations. Its efforts involved putting milkweed seed packets in Marquette city utility bills. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula is an important stopover site for monarch butterflies on their annual migration from Canada to Mexico, and the Superior Watershed Partnership has engaged communities across the peninsula to help this endangered pollinator.

Monarch butterfly populations have declined more than 80 percent in the recent decades due to habitat loss, pesticides and other factors. However, SWP programs are restoring critical habitat on public and private lands throughout the U.P. in a successful effort to counter this alarming trend. The common milkweed plant is the monarchs’ preferred food. Monarchs also rely on milkweed plants to deposit their eggs and feed their larvae.

The city of Marquette recently collaborated with the SWP to mail out more than 6,000 packets of milkweed seeds in utility bills to city residents and businesses.

The city has also provided sites for SWP volunteer pollinator habitat restoration events with local schools and citizen volunteers.

At the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market and other events, the SWP also provided thousands of free milkweed plants, grown in local greenhouses, for families to transplant together. In addition, thanks to a grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the SWP is restoring over a mile of Lake Superior coastal pollinator and migratory bird habitat within the city limits.

The SWP also distributed more than 10,000 seed packets to other U.P. communities, schools, churches and community groups on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Totally, that’s more than 1 million milkweed seeds and milkweed plants already distributed, with an estimated 70 percent already planted.

For almost a decade, the SWP Great Lakes Conservation Corps has been working with local, state and federal landowners throughout the U.P. to restore prioritized monarch habitat throughout the region, including rare migration stopover sites such as the tip of the Stonington Peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan.

For a few weeks in the late summer and early fall, the trees of the Stonington Peninsula can be covered with tens of thousands of monarchs resting up before they fly across the open waters of Lake Michigan on their journey to Mexico.

Working with the Hiawatha National Forest and private landowners, SWP crews have removed invasive plants, transplanted over 100,000 milkweed plants and restored acres of prioritized habitat to assist monarchs at this geographically unique migratory site.

Finally, thanks to the Lake Superior Volunteer Corps, local residents and visitors to the U.P. can now volunteer to help the endangered monarch butterfly or assist with other important Great Lakes conservation projects. Interested participants may log on to the SWP website at www.superiorwatersheds.org and sign up for a time to volunteer.

For more information, contact Emily Goodman, GLCC coordinator, at emily@superiorwatersheds.org or 906-228-6095 ext. 15.