Community for Monarchs

Coming Together to Save a Beloved Butterfly

Community (n):
1. A group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood) 1
2. A group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc. 1
3. A group of nations1
4. A group of actually or potentially interacting species living in the same place, …bound together by the network of influences that species have on one another

Community is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days. With all of the interest in things like ‘community leaders’, and ‘reaching out to the community’, and it can be easy to start glossing over the word and its true depth of meaning. That said, I think I can comfortably and candidly say that one really cool part of my summer involved working with the community (definition 1) that surrounds St. Croix Wetland Management District (WMD). We worked together because of our shared interest in protecting the beautiful Monarch butterfly (definition 2), and our shared interest in promoting the native plant communities (definition 4) upon which pollinators depend.

A picture of the amazing community (definition 1, 2, and 3) of interns at the St. Croix Wetland Management District

As I mentioned in my last article, at St. Croix, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with a lot of awesome local organizations to help Monarch butterflies throughout the area. Most outreach is done by full-time staff at the National Park Service in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, the U.S. Forest Service in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, and the St. Croix WMD. As part of my SCA internship, though„ I was lucky enough to get to interact with surrounding community members on a couple of occasions.

The first occasion started with a writing project. After my first Monarch-themed brochure, I was excited to get to write a short article. This time, our audience was our own partners who had signed on to the pollinator resolution. The general idea was that we wanted a little one-page article to update members on our overall mission and highlight the great events that some of our partners were hosting. To do this, I got to interview Monica Zachay, the Water Resource Steward at the St. Croix River Association (SCRA) and (briefly) Ron Roettger from the Willow River Rod and Gun Club and Friends of St. Croix (he’s in two clubs – he’s awesome like that).

Monica Zachay

Based on our interviews, I found out about a wonderful movie showing event that the SCRA, the Willow River Rod and Gun Club, and the Friends of St. Croix had hosted around Earth Day. They combined, in one evening:
1. A delicious, free cookout to whet people’s appetites for environmental action
2. A free movie on Monarch butterflies’ epic journey to educate people on just how incredible these gorgeous, tiny insects are
3. Free milkweed seeds so that the attendees, having learned about Monarchs, could go out and create some Monarch habitat of their own

Apparently it went very well. With a combination of activities like that, how couldn’t it?
For my second act of direct community outreach, I got to connect my pre-existing volunteer activities with my internship at St. Croix. I am an officer with Students for Sustainability, a club at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities dedicated to promoting environmentally friendly choices on campus. Recently, we started a community garden. Besides having delicious, organic fruits and vegetables, we wanted our garden to include native forbs for pollinators. After much prep work from everyone throughout the year, Nathaniel Baeumler, another officer, and myself finally organized a pollinator planting day (or should I say, ‘planting for pollinators?’ Since we were hardly planting bees…) this summer. We got over 500 native plants, including over 60 milkweeds, thanks to a generous grant from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (check them out, they’re fantastic!). In one day about ten first-class volunteers planted them all. Among the volunteers were three Fish and Wildlife Service affiliates: Asher Malipaard, Alejandro ‘A-Dubb’ Morales, and myself.

Nathaniel and I planning together. I’m looking stylish in this pic – it was raining earlier in the morning so I was wearing a makeshift poncho from a plastic bag. Photo by A-dubb Morales

Asher in wheelbarrow, resting after a hard day’s work – he dug out an entire extra garden bed by himself!

A-Dubb very kindly treated everyone to pizza after gardening all morning!

A community member admiring our garden… kind of. Full disclosure: That’s my grandma! I dragged her over to the garden one day because it’s so exciting and I like promoting it.

Yet the link between volunteering and this internship didn’t end there. After the pollinator planting day and a bit of discussion, Students for Sustainability signed on to the Pollinator Pledge!

By signing on, we’ll be able to add to a larger effort to protect Monarch butterflies. Specifically, as Pollinator Resolution partners, we’ll share information with other members and stay informed about their efforts. In the future, we may be able to use volunteer hours or acreage as matches for grants, which will fund even more habitat creation and promotion efforts.

Overall, this summer I’ve been exposed to a lot of fantastic communities. I’ve gotten to work, hangout, cook, and explore with an exceptional group of staff and fellow interns (definition 1 and 2). I’ve gotten to learn about the plants upon which Monarch butterflies depend (definition 4). I’ve gotten to learn about the vast network of local organizations that the Pollinator Resolution is bringing together (definition 1 and 2), and I’ve gotten a chance to link plant, insect, and human interests together through writing and volunteering. It has been a pleasure and an honor. Although my internship will end all too soon, I look forward to continuing to work with these wonderful people and native species in the future.

References
1. Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, Inc., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/community>.
2. “Ecological Communities: Networks of Interacting Species.” University of Michigan, n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2015. <http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/ecol_co….

Partner Organization