Illinois joins pact to protect monarch butterflies' habitat

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Four state agencies have signed a pact to protect monarch butterflies and other important pollinators whose numbers are dwindling.

Representatives of the Illinois Departments of Natural Resources, Transportation and Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency signed onto the Illinois Monarch Action Plan on Friday.

While feeding on nectar, monarchs pollinate numerous wildflowers and also serve as an important food source for birds, small animals and other insects. Milkweed is a favorite food source for monarch caterpillars.

The project brings together public and private agencies and residents to preserve necessary habitat for monarchs to survive and continue their crucial migration.

“Though small, pollinators play an extremely important role in our survival here in Illinois and the world,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan.

The plan calls for 1.3 billion new stems of milkweed in the central U.S. Illinois' contribution is 150 million stems by 2038.

The Transportation Department, one of the state's largest landowners, has adjusted roadside mowing schedules, reduced the use of pesticides and become more discerning in the species it plants, Secretary Omer Osman said.

The EPA, whose mission is to protect the environment, is keenly aware of pollinators' contributions to a diverse ecosystem, director John Kim said. Agriculture director Jerry Costello II noted that Illinois leads the nation in soybean production and is No. 2 in corn, so farmers know the key role pollinators play.

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Illinois Monarch Project: http://illinoismonarchproject.org/