BEND, Ore. - Monarch butterflies are flying on a wing and a prayer these days. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the population of the once-abundant colorful invertebrate — its bold orange wings rimmed with white flecks — has declined by some 90 percent since the 1990s.
The Oregonian reported recently that the monarch population in the western U.S. plummeted 99 percent this past year, down to the low tens of thousands. Habitat loss, particularly the loss of milkweed plants, which monarch caterpillars use as a host plant to feed on, is pushing them to the brink.
Pushing back is a new partnership between Central Oregon Community College and the Deschutes Land Trust.
With a plot of landscaping on the college’s Bend campus newly designated for a milkweed garden, a volunteer crew — the self-appointed “Butterfly Brigade” — from the Deschutes Land Trust is holding a planting party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, in front of the college’s bookstore.
Though the volunteer crew is currently full, interested parties can visit deschuteslandtrust.org to learn about other planting events.
“The Land Trust will provide and plant 200 native milkweed plants which are critical to the survival of monarch butterflies,” explained Mike Beaulieu, operations supervisor for COCC’s campus services department. Additional benefits of the project, he noted, are an improvement of campus landscape aesthetics and the reduction of invasive and noxious plant species.
Sarah Mowry, outreach director at the Deschutes Land Trust, said they are excited to partner with the college, a new chapter for the organization’s monarch conservation efforts.
“We’ve already planted thousands of native blossoms and milkweed plants on our preserves, but this is the first of several plantings we will be doing off of our protected lands and in our community,” she said. “We are thrilled to have partners who are thinking so critically about the connections between community and the natural world.”
The Deschutes Land Trust is Central Oregon’s locally based, nationally accredited land trust. Since 1995, the Deschutes Land Trust has protected more than 9,100 acres for wildlife, scenic views and local communities.