In the past two years, NRPA has initiated an intensive effort to engage park and recreation agencies in helping to save the monarch butterfly. In recognition of these collective efforts, NRPA has been accepted into the Monarch Joint Venture, a partnership of national and regional organizations, universities, and governmental agencies all working to protect and conserve the monarch.
The monarch butterfly is known to almost everyone, children and adults alike. This handsome orange and black butterfly visits farm fields, roadsides, and backyards every spring on its 3,000 mile multi-generation migration north from southern Mexico through the United States and into Canada, and then again in the fall on its return migration south. However, due to many factors, hundreds of millions of acres of habitat for milkweed, a plant that is essential to the life cycle and migration of the monarch, has been lost over the past twenty years and monarch populations have plummeted by more than 90 percent. A national effort to save the monarch has been mounted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is supported by many public agencies and private non-profit organizations.
Public parks are seen by biologists as key to the restoration of monarchs because they can provide places where milkweed and other nectar-bearing plants can thrive. Parks are ideal for monarchs and other pollinating insects, which are in almost as much peril as the monarch. Parks can provide new habitats for monarchs and other pollinators and existing habitats can be expanded.
To respond to the dire conservation challenge presented by the diminishing numbers or monarchs, NRPA launched a national call to action through the Parks for Monarchs campaign to help save the monarch. This call to action has been multi-faceted. Thanks to articles in Parks & Recreation magazine, online resources for members to download, online training webinars, conference education sessions, social media posts, and information on how to obtain free milkweed plants for restoration, NRPA has begun to reach its goal of creating an interconnected network of public parks that are all working to save the monarch.
Park and recreation agencies nationally have responded to NRPA’s call to action by installing Monarch Waystations, creating new habitat areas for monarchs and other pollinators, enabling the public to participate in citizen science projects relating to monarch conservation, and more. NRPA is particularly committed to involving children and youths in monarch conservation, as are the hundreds of parks that are providing educational programs, conservation projects, and hands-on learning about the monarch and its fight for survival.
NRPA’s acceptance into the Monarch Joint Venture partnership is significant recognition of the contributions of parks and recreation nationally to monarch conservation. As part of the North American Monarch Conservation Plan, the Monarch Joint Venture works throughout the U.S. “to conserve and protect monarch populations and their migratory phenomena by implementing science-based habitat conservation and restoration measures in collaboration with multiple stakeholders.”
NRPA’s goal is to engage every public park and recreation agency in collectively working to restore the monarch to former numbers and habitats. Coming soon will be a national survey of park agencies to determine the level of need for training and resources; new opportunities for advanced training through webinars and education programs on how to create and restore habitat for monarchs; how to engage the public in citizen science; and how to involve children in monarch conservation; and other initiatives of the Parks for Monarchs campaign.
Learn more information about the MJV announcement regarding NRPA’s acceptance to the MJV partnership and about the Parks for Monarchs campaign.
Richard J. Dolesh is NRPA's Vice-President for Conservation and Parks.