BRANSON, Mo. – Cities across the Midwest are taking the pledge to try and save the monarch butterfly, and this week Branson officially joined the list.
The “Mayor’s Milkweed Monarch” program is aimed at assisting the butterfly’s declining population which has dropped by nearly 90% over the last two decades.
“I don’t want to tell the next generation, ‘monarchs were beautiful but you’ll never miss them because you’ve never seen one,’” says environmental specialist for the city of Branson, Mona Menezes.
“That’s not right on our part for our generation,” she says.
Menezes says the monarch’s flyway runs right through the “Show Me State,” but over the years the native plants they stop at along the way have been removed.
Missouri’s Department of Conservation says some of the biggest factors have been unusual weather patterns, an increase in crop cultivation and weed-free farming techniques.
“[The monarchs] used to cover the equivalent of 20 soccer fields,” says Menezes, “now they cover less than half a soccer field.”
Branson is one of some 200 cities that have started planting safe havens for the iconic species.
Branson has seven gardens are various sites like the recycling center, the Branson Convention Center and at one of the fire stations.
At the center of each garden is the milkweed plant – the only place when the monarchs will lay their eggs.
“This new garden [at the recycling center] doesn’t look great today but it can be beautiful,” says Missouri Naturalist, Sherryl Walker.
Walker is hoping green thumbs will change their perception on the milkweed plant, no longer viewing it as a nuisance in their garden.
“If it’s growing in someone else’s garden it might their most beautiful specimen plant,” she says, “and that’s what we’re trying to show here — how pretty the natives can be.”
“We’re asking people to consider converting ten-percent of your existing landscaping to nectar plants and milkweed plants that will support the monarchs,” says Menezes.
The city says since taking the pledge, it’s received feedback from residents who would like to assist in the conservation efforts.
The city will be hosting an educational program on monarchs on Saturday, October 8 at the Taneyhills Library.
The program starts at 10 am and will include “a special movie for all ages, stories, and gifts for children.”