Mayors' Monarch Pledge

Pollinator Conservation Efforts

invertebrate_monarch-butterfly-Washingto

The Mayors' Monarch Pledge

The monarch butterfly is an iconic North American species whose multigenerational migration and metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly has captured the imagination of millions of Americans.

We, the undersigned mayors and heads of local or tribal government, are deeply concerned about the decline of the monarch butterfly population. Both the western and eastern monarch populations have experienced significant declines. Less than one percent of the western monarch population remains, while the eastern population has fallen by as much as ninety percent. Monarch scientists attribute the population decline to degradation and loss of summer breeding habitat in the U.S., and loss of winter habitat in south-central Mexico and coastal California.

Cities, towns, counties, and communities have a critical role to play to help save the monarch butterfly. Municipalities can provide habitat at public parks, median strips, community gardens, schools, and municipal buildings like recreation centers and libraries. Events such as community workshops, native plant giveaways, and monarch festivals, can educate residents about the cultural significance of monarchs and how to create habitat. Simple changes in landscaping ordinances or other policies can make a big difference for the monarch too.

We recognize the importance of creating monarch and pollinator habitat at parks, gardens, and other green spaces, that every member of our community can equally enjoy. Our work to help save the monarch butterfly intentionally engages all parts of our communities, ensuring that historically marginalized communities are not left out of the work or the many benefits this work will create.

When mayors speak up and take a stand, our communities notice. Therefore, we hereby commit to help restore habitat for the monarch and encourage our residents to do the same, so that these magnificent butterflies will once again flourish across the continent.

The Monarch Butterfly

The large and brilliantly-colored monarch butterfly is among the most easily recognizable of the butterfly species that call North America home. They have two sets of wings and a wingspan of three to four inches (7 to 10 centimeters). Their wings are a deep orange with black borders and veins, and white spots along the edges. The underside of the wings is pale orange. A male monarch butterfly has thinner black veins and a black spot on each hind wing. Female monarch butterflies lack the black spot and have much thicker black veins. The butterfly’s body is black with white markings.

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Decline of the Monarch Butterfly

Once abundant, the monarch numbers have recently plummeted as milkweed, the plant caterpillars rely on for food and habitat, has become scarcer. Widespread pesticide use and climate change are major problems. The monarch is a "goldilocks" species e.g. very temperature sensitive. In 1996, the monarch population wintering in Mexico was more than 1 billion, in 2014, numbers fell to a disheartening 56 million. Monarch populations have declined by more than 90 percent in the last 20 years. Ask for native milkweeds at your local retail garden center! Be sure to ask for plants that have not been treated with pesticides, which may make them toxic to monarchs and other insects.

Middletown commits to
helping monarch butterflies

By HANNAH HIMES,
hhimes@newspost.com

Mayors’ Monarch Pledge Month has arrived for Middletown after Burgess John Miller signed the National Wildlife Federation’s pledge to provide suitable habitats for monarch butterflies.

The pledge commits the town to taking 14 actions to help save monarch butterflies and other pollinators, including educating people about how they can help monarchs.

According to the NWF, the eastern populations of the monarch butterfly have declined by 90 percent, and western populations have dropped by 99 percent in recent years.

“We have a super-engaged Green Team or Sustainability Committee here in Middletown,” said Cindy Unangst, Middletown staff planner and Sustainability Committee co-chair. “This group is just an amazing, dedicated group to all things sustainable.”

Unangst credited “dynamic” committee member Ann Payne with bringing up the Monarch Pledge. The pledge was then passed on to Miller, who welcomed and signed it.

The Sustainability Committee has worked hard to raise awareness about the monarch butterfly and the species’ need for habitat, Miller said in a prepared statement.

“Our town and the committee engage with citizens and community garden groups and urge the planting of native milkweeds and nectar-producing plants. We are proud of our progress and recognize that there is more to do to protect the monarch butterfly,” he said.

Middletown is no stranger to efforts like this. Last year, the town became the first municipality in Frederick County to be designated a Bee City USA municipality. The town is also a Tree City USA member and became Sustainable Maryland certified in 2016.

“[The pledge] certainly seemed like something that would be easy to help do,” Unangst said. “Because with the Bee City USA designation, we need to create pollinator gardens, so kind of, that goes hand in hand with the whole Monarch Pledge.”

The Monarch Pledge has action items in different areas including
communications and holding programs and demonstrations.

“There are items from each of those kind of broad categories that Burgess Miller put in his pledge that we would try to do,” Unangst said. “As far as the communication, a lot of it is kind of engaging with the public, engaging with community garden groups or engaging with homeowners associations or engaging with gardening leaders, like Master Gardeners … to support monarch butterfly planting programs and that kind of thing.”

The committee is looking at planting pollinator friendly demonstration gardens in town for people to see and learn from. Middletown Elementary School is also part of the Schoolyard Habitat Program and has an outdoor education area.

“They have planted a lot of pollinator friendly plants there, and so certainly we would want to work with the teachers over there to help them out with what they’re doing,” Unangst said.

Other considerations include changing mowing or weed ordinances to allow for native prairie or plant habitats in town, as well as implementing regulations about the kinds of plants or trees that are planted in town.

“Even one person can help make a difference,” Unangst said. “We have over 4,000 residents here in town, and if even a fraction of that would help put in pollinator gardens and stuff to attract the bees and butterflies and other pollinators, that’s going to go a long way.”

Follow Hannah Himes on Twitter: @hannah_himes.

Middletown's Action Items:

Communications & Convening:

Issue a Proclamation to raise awareness about the decline of the monarch butterfly and the species’ need for habitat.

Engage with developers and landscape architects to identify opportunities to create monarch habitat.

Engage with HOAs (Glenbrook, Village of Foxfield, Middletown Glen) to identify opportunities to plant monarch gardens and revise maintenance and mowing programs.

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Engage with parks and recreation committee, public works, and other relevant staff to identify opportunities to revise and maintain mowing programs and milkweed/native nectar plant planting programs.

Engage with community garden groups and urge them to plant native milkweeds and nectar-producing plants.

Launch or maintain a public communication effort to encourage residents to plant monarch gardens at their homes or in their neighborhoods.

Host or support a monarch neighborhood challenge to engage neighborhoods and HOAs within the town to increase awareness and/or create habitat for the monarch butterfly.

Plant or maintain a monarch and pollinator-friendly demonstration garden in a prominent community location.

Systems Change

Change weed or mowing ordinances to allow for native prairie and plant habitats.

Increase the percentage of native plants, shrubs and trees that must be used in town landscaping ordinances and encourage use of milkweed where appropriate.

Change ordinances so pesticide, herbicide, insecticide or other chemicals used in the community are not harmful to pollinators.

Adopt ordinances that support reducing light pollution.

A National Campaign

The Mayors’ Monarch Pledge is a national campaign asking mayors to commit their town to a series of specific actions to make their town friendlier to the declining monarch butterfly.

“By taking the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, these leaders are setting an example of how every American can help save this iconic specie, while also ensuring future generations can enjoy their spectacular metamorphosis and migration” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

The Mayors Monarch Pledge comes after the joint partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In February, both parties signed a memorandum of understanding to increase monarch numbers. The memorandum provided a framework for cooperation in restoring and conserving populations of the monarch butterfly, pollinator species, and the native plants and habitat which they rely on.

With the pledge, cities and municipalities are committing to create monarch butterfly habitat and educate citizens by:

  • Planting a monarch-friendly demonstration garden to provide habitat for countless butterflies and serve as a learning tool for citizens that want to create their own gardens at home.

  • Changing mowing practices and establishing “no mow zones” in parks to allow milkweed to grow and support monarch caterpillars.

Creating A Healthy Habitat Garden For Monarch

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Pick a Sunny Spot
Most pollinators feed on flower nectar from plants that grow in sunny areas. Ideally your butterfly garden should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Prepare a Planting Bed
Clear grass and weeds and gently turn compacted clay soil by adding compost to loosen and enrich the soil and improve drainage. The more area you can devote to garden beds planted with nectar and host plants, the more success at attracting monarchs you'll have. Try for a bed that is at least ten by ten feet, or multiple smaller beds. Or turn your whole landscape into a wildlife habitat garden.

Photo by: Bernadette Spare

Choose Plants
Start by planting the seeds you receive from the National Wildlife Federation then add more plants from your local garden center. Plants native to your region provide the best habitat for monarchs and all wildlife. Be sure to request plants grown without chemical pesticides.

Plant Densely and Diversely
The more native habitat plants you add, the more butterflies and other wildlife you'll attract. Planting in clusters will make it easier for wildlife to spot the plants that you have planted to attract them.

Milkweed for Monarchs

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Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly Milkweed

Asclepias incarnata
Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca
Common Milkweed

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Asclepias purpurascens
Purple Milkweed

Asclepias exaltata
Polk Milkweed

Asclepias verticillata
Whorled Milkweed

Think Seasonally
When you design your garden, make sure that something is blooming in spring, summer and fall to provide food for monarchs throughout their migration and breeding seasons.

Resources