Teams of Sierrans throughout Illinois have been as busy as bees working to improve habitat for all pollinator- bees, birds and butterflies. DuPage Monarch Project, led by the River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club, asked Governor Rauner to name June 18-24 as Illinois Pollinator Week and he followed through! As we celebrate pollinators this week, take time to learn how you can help and how you can engage with other Sierra Club members in this important conservation work.
Monarch butterflies and other important pollinators are in decline. The causes range from habitat loss, to pesticides, to climate change. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by as much as 90 percent over the last two decades.
Because Illinois is a critical migration flyway for monarch butterflies it has been designated as a high priority area for monarch conservation in strategies developed both by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. And, the monarch butterfly, Illinois’ state insect, was identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the most recent Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.
The Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign formed The Monarch Team–volunteers who works at the Group level to make the Prairie State better for monarchs, which in turn helps all of our valuable pollinators. The Team:
- Advocates for critical Monarch habitat with new public lands like the Hackmatack and Kankakee National Wildlife Refuges, and continuing restoration at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and other sites.
- Works with partner organizations to develop policies to reduce, regulate and/or eliminate the use of toxic pesticides that are lethal to pollinators and the plants they depend on.
- Collaborates on statewide policy to increase pollinator habitat on public and private land from farmland to urban areas to roadside rights of way.
- Hosts and/or participates at educational events and festivals that promote planting native species, especially milkweeds, in yards, farms, rights of way, and other places available to support monarchs.
You can keep track of Illinois Sierra Club pollinator activities by checking out our calendar and by becoming a member of our Monarch Team’s Facebook group. Please feel free to add pollinator info and events to the group page. Mark your calendars for these Upcoming Events:
- Ongoing Volunteer weekly this summer at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge pollinator garden and restoration project. Contact Rick Whitecotton (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be put on the email list to be informed of the work schedule.
- June 21 Monarch Celebration and Pollinator Planting in Godfrey
- August 12 Monarch Family Fun Fair at Crystal Lake Main Beach Pavilion
Help out Illinois Monarchs by Purchasing a License Plate Decal
Illinois residents can help out monarchs by signing up to purchase a license plate with a new monarch butterfly decal! All of the funds received will go to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to support roadside monarch habitat throughout our state and help to save this magnificent species. Instructions can be found in this earlier post. We need 2000 Illinoisans to sign up by September for the Secretary of State to create the decal.
History of Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign
- Legislative initiatives
- HB2568 — passed bill designating milkweed as Illinois State Wildflower
- HB685 — passed bill to eliminate milkweed from being listed on municipal and county noxious weed lists.
- Team activities:
- All across the state Monarch Team volunteers have helped establish pollinator plantings, wayside gardens, and demonstration plots at county forest preserves, city parks and open spaces, national wildlife refuges, and a Studio Gang rooftop.
- Worked with several park districts and a cities to sign resolutions to create and protect pollinator habitat.
- Worked to get Mayor’s Monarch Pledges signed.
- Volunteers have staffed tables at numerous Earth Day events and other festivals where they talked to the public and handed out information about monarchs and pollinators, handed out seed packets that they had assembled and labeled, setup coloring activity stations for kids, etc.
- Groups have held educational presentations, while individual members have attended various pollinator workshops and webinars.
Pollinator Protection work underway throughout Illinois
River Prairie Group Spearheaded by the River Prairie Group, the DuPage Monarch Project (DMP) was formed in 2015 as a collaboration of four local environmental organizations for the purpose of advocating for monarch friendly communities. Monarch friendly communities encourage landscaping for habitat, limiting the usage of insecticides and educating their residents about the challenges facing monarchs and pollinators. DMP’s outreach has primarily been through educational programs, tabling, and urging municipal entities to sign monarch resolutions. In 2018-
- DMP hosted its third annual program titled Beyond Monarchs: Preserving Endangered Butterflies, Bees and Dragonflies.
- DMP organized a pollinator themed art exhibit, The Art of Pollinators that ran for the month of May at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s annual native plant sale was held at the same location on May 11 and 12, offering plant sale browsers the opportunity to experience many of the pollinators that rely on native species. The call for art was well received with nearly a 100 entries. It was a multi-media event with photographs, watercolors and several three-dimensional entries including an altered book, mixed media pieces and artful furniture. Sound artist John Nichols III contributed an insect soundscape of cricket chirps, buzzing bees, beetle clicks and whirring hummingbirds created from recordings collected over the past ten years.
- DMP is offering a half-day symposium on October 17th on creating attractive, pollinator-friendly landscapes in a variety of settings, parks, municipal lands, homeowners association’s common grounds, corporate campuses and golf courses.
Chicago Group The group’s second annual pollinator seed packet distribution is underway. We packaged 1,000 packets with native purple coneflower & black eyed susan seeds, and we will be handing them out at various farmers markets and Sierra Club sponsored events. Packets are available at the Sierra Club’s Chicago office for people to pick up.
Shawnee Group The group’s pollinator project in Carbondale was put on hold after learning that the Splash Park where our project was located is heavily sprayed by Jackson County Mosquito Abatement. Because of the potential lethal consequences to all insects caused by mosquito abatement spraying the group voted not to continue attracting pollinators with more native plants until we could find a solution. The group is communicating with the Carbondale Sustainability Council in hopes they can influence policies and change to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) recommended by the Xerces organization or find other pollinator insect friendly management techniques.
The group participated in the “People and Pollinators” event sponsored by the Field Museum and held on the SIU campus on June 5th to learn to use mapping protocols to identify pollinator habitat potential in urban areas. Carbondale, Lincoln and Peoria are three cities in Illinois chosen as pilot project locations. Volunteers will help the Giant City State Park Visitor Center’s pollinator garden by labeling their plants and enlarging their garden. They don’t spray there or at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge’s pollinator garden and prairie restoration project where the group also volunteers weekly.
Woods & Wetlands Group The group’s Monarch Campaign, co-chaired by Dale Duda and Cindy Blue, focuses on advocating for local community actions to preserve, protect and restore monarch habitat. The group continues to advocate for mayors to sign the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge and commit to a minimum three actions to help monarchs. Several mayors in the group’s territory have signed. See all the Illinois and national signatories online.
Woods & Wetlands is also working with libraries to adopt an education program, developed by the group, to reinforce knowledge about the monarch butterfly and the importance of milkweed to its life cycle.
Blackhawk Group Sierrans are part of the Hackmatack Monarch Coalition that is active in McHenry County. This coalition of over 20 member organizations is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on improving pollinator habitat and educating citizens on what they can do to help out pollinators. The coalition will host its 4th annual Monarch Family Fun Fair on August 12. The group has also planted pollinator plants supplied by the USFWS into existing roadside prairies and established new gardens at sites throughout the county, including at the McHenry County fairgrounds. In the fall, a second planting will be the first phase of establishment of a buffer along Silver Creek which runs through fairgrounds.