Tricia Braid

May 30, 2018  |  Today's News |  Conservation

Monarch Butterfly populations have been trending downward since 1994 for a variety of reasons. There is growing interest in conserving Monarchs by improving habitat conditions along the Monarch migratory flyway, and Illinois is at the heart of it! This interest is quite timely since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been petitioned to consider the butterfly for the endangered species list. If listed, the ramifications to agriculture would likely be substantial. In answer, a collaboration called the Illinois Monarch Project has been established to put together for submission to the USFWS a conservation plan to use as evidence that a listing is not needed because stakeholders will take voluntary action to improve Monarch populations. We’re all “Pitching-in for Pollinators” and specifically the Monarch butterfly. All Illinoisans are stakeholders in this process, and we all have different landscape types and sizes to impact.


Stakeholders came together in September 2016 for a Monarch Butterfly summit and the result is the Illinois Monarch Project (IMP), a group of citizens, their organizations, and government bodies are working together through collaborative and coordinated efforts to ensure the survival of monarchs and their successful migration through Illinois.


Key partners in the Illinois Monarch Project include:

  • Illinois Corn Growers Association
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources
  • Illinois Department of Transportation
  • Illinois Department of Agriculture
  • The University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Prairie Rivers Network
  • Chicago Zoological Society
  • Farm Service Agency
  • Illinois Farm Bureau
  • The Field Museum
  • Pheasants Forever


Building a strong and impactful conservation strategy that works for everyone is vital.


We are all pitching in to:

  • ensure monarch survival and successful migration through Illinois,
  • preserve our natural heritage and ensure future biodiversity through the protection of monarch and pollinator habitat, and
  • inspire Illinoisans to sustain a culture of active monarch butterfly conservation and protection.


In the development of the regional strategy, we’ve identified these high-level goals.

  • Create an active collaborative of diverse stakeholders to coordinate the development and implementation of conservation strategies for monarch butterflies and pollinator species.
  • Develop focused outreach and education campaigns to align activities across the state, building an army of conservation stewards and ensuring monarchs successful migration through Illinois.
  • Inform conservation strategies using the best available science on monarch butterfly and pollinator health and habitat.
  • Conserve, enhance, and restore habitat on public and private lands to support populations of monarch butterflies and pollinator species, including the addition of 150 million stems of milkweed (along with nectar sources) across Illinois by 2035.
  • Standardize monitoring and data collection for monarch butterfly and pollinator habitat, utilizing geospatial data to identify and quantity baseline and potential habitat for monarch butterflies and pollinators across the agriculture, natural lands, rights-of-way, and urban sectors.


We’ve already pitched-in and accomplished a great deal! Highlights of this successful, collaborative strategy include:

  • Corn farmers and other farmers in Illinois are growing over 106,000 acres of pollinator habitat on private lands.
  • Close to 1,000 farmers in Illinois are participating in a program called “Living Acres,” receiving and planting over 15,000 new milkweeds on their farms around their homes, outbuildings, or other non-cropping areas.
  • The Illinois Department of Transportation, by changing mowing practices, is providing approximately 60,000-80,000 additional acres of habitat. IDOT has converted over 500 acres with Operation Habitat since 2016 and is adding more this spring through additional projects and partnerships. IDOT has also registered 24 Monarch Waystations at rest areas and other facilities and will register another 20 this spring. Several are already producing and have Monarch eggs!
  • Pheasants Forever, in partnership with many others, supports programs that over time amount to over 400,000 acres of wildlife habitat, with a newly created pollinator and monarch habitat amounting to over 5,000 acres last year.
  • 29 Illinois mayors have signed the Mayor’s Monarch pledge.
  • The Field Museum has created an urban planning tool.
  • And every day Illinois citizens are supporting over 1,400 registered, certified, Monarch Waystations, just like this one here at the Corn Crib.


How can you help?

  • Plant milkweed and flowering plants
  • Adopt monarch-friendly mowing practices
  • Voluntarily register habitat areas
  • Join local, state, or federal incentive programs
  • Look for partnership opportunities with conservation groups or neighboring landowners