This year Illinois Sierra Club worked with, Representative Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) and Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), to pass two important pieces of legislation aimed at helping the monarch butterfly. Back during the spring session, HB2568, designating milkweed as the state wildflower, passed both chambers and was signed into law in August. Also during the spring session, HB685, which provides that counties and municipalities may not classify milkweed as a noxious or exotic weed, passed the House, but got delayed from a vote in the Senate. But, all that changed today when HB685 passed in the Senate 41-6-1.
Over the last 20 years monarchs have seen a precipitous 80 to 90 percent decline in population due to environmental threats, including a drastic reduction in native milkweed, the only source of food for monarch larvae. Of the twenty-three species of milkweeds that are native to Illinois, five are listed as endangered, and one is listed as threatened on the federal endangered and threatened species list.
Lonnie Morris, an Illinois Sierra Club volunteer and longtime advocate for monarchs, proposed the ideas for both bills. Morris believed that designating milkweed as our state wildflower would raise awareness of its importance as monarch habitat. She also discovered that many municipalities listed milkweed as a noxious weed, preventing people from planting it in their gardens. The passage of HB685 today in the Illinois Senate is particularly important because it comes at a time when habitat for monarchs and other pollinators is being seriously threatened. We need to be planting more milkweed, not banning it.
In addition to the Illinois Sierra Club, the Illinois Environmental Council and Prairie Rivers Network supported both bills in an effort to increase monarch butterfly habitat in Illinois. Each spring and fall monarchs make their way through Illinois during their 3,000 mile migration between Mexico and Canada and back to Mexico. But this trip is becoming increasingly perilous due to massive habitat loss, climate change, and unintentional exposure to insecticides and herbicides.
Monarchs were named Illinois’ State Insect several years ago, so recognising the value of milkweed, the monarch’s only host plant, is a logical next step in monarch protection.
Monarchs serve as a beautiful reminder that all pollinators are vital not only for the survival of native plants and animals, but also that our crop plants require pollinators, making them essential for our food system. In total, pollinators provide $10 billion in economic value annually in the United States.