Fairfax goes to bat for Monarch butterflies

butterfly photoPhoto © Mark Brinegar, National Wildlife Federation

 City of Fairfax Mayor David L. Meyer continues the city’s efforts to save and protect Monarch butterflies and other pollinators by joining community leaders nationwide in taking the National Wildlife Federation (NFW) Mayors Monarch Pledge.

“Twenty years ago, the United States had a billion or more Monarch butterflies,” says Meyer. “Now, we have perhaps one-tenth of that number. The City of Fairfax has committed to continue creating habitat on public land and educating our citizens on how every single home and business can make a difference in this struggle to save pollinators.”

Monarch butterflies are found nationwide, but NWF estimates their numbers have dropped in recent years by as much as 90 percent or more. Monarch butterflies face numerous threats, particularly loss of habitat due to agricultural practices, development, and cropland conversion. Degradation of wintering habitat in Mexico and California also has had a negative impact on the species.

Meyer has pledged that the city will enact at least three of 25 specific actions suggested by NWF to help save the Monarch butterfly. “Every action, large or small, makes a difference to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators,” he says. “Something as simple as changing mowing schedules to allow milkweed to grow unimpeded can feed countless Monarch butterfly larvae. NFW has dozens of creative options Fairfax City can consider implementing for this worthy cause.”

Butterfly gardens

The city has been supporting nature’s pollinators for years. The city currently has three butterfly gardens — at Rust Curve on Chain Bridge Road, at Ashby Pond Conservatory Site, and at Van Dyck Park —with features specifically designed to draw Monarch butterflies. The city also encourages city residents and business owners to plant and cultivate milkweed plants, which are the exclusive diet of Monarch butterfly larvae. Additionally, the city has created a chapter in the City Code specifically for “Domestic Beekeeping” and, at the behest of city residents, established beehive permits and guidelines.

Residents also can play a part in helping the species thrive. City resident Janet Jaworski’s backyard is a certified Monarch Waystation. “It’s simple to create an inviting habitat for the Monarch and other pollinators in your yard, deck, or balcony by planting milkweed—the host plant for the Monarch caterpillar—and nectar plants, which is the food source for the butterfly,” she says. “We love doing our part to help this majestic butterfly. If you plant it, they will come!”

NFW president and CEO Collin O’Mara say, “Mayors and other local government officials play a pivotal role in advancing Monarch butterfly conservation in urban and suburban areas. By working together, we can ensure that every American child has a chance to experience majestic Monarchs in their backyards and communities.”

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.