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Planting a Million Gardens to Save the Butterflies

Populations of monarch butterflies and other pollinators have declined sharply. (PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay)
Populations of monarch butterflies and other pollinators have declined sharply. (PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay)
October 23, 2017

NEW YORK – Conservationists are closing in on their goal of creating 1 million gardens that support pollinating insects.

Loss of habitat, pesticides and other threats have drastically reduced pollinators such as honey bees and monarch butterflies.

Two years ago, gardeners and conservationists joined together to reverse that trend.

According to Mary Phillips, senior director of the National Wildlife Federation's Garden for Wildlife program, what they are trying to do is really quite simple.

"Plant these wonderful nectar-providing, pollen-providing plants wherever you can to replace a lot of the habitat that's been wiped out by development and agriculture and other human needs so that we can have a more balanced ecosystem," she explains.

In two years, the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge has helped create 650,000 gardens nationwide and doubled the number of participating national organizations.

Here in New York, Phillips notes, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has signed the federation's Mayors' Monarch Pledge. With more than 2.5 million residents, Brooklyn is now the largest city to join efforts to restore monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

"Monarchs are something that people identify,” Phillips states. “It's an iconic butterfly that many of us have experienced in our childhood. So that's been an amazing motivator to get people to focus and engage around the pollinator issue."

Populations of monarch butterflies have plunged by 90 percent over the past 20 years.

Pollinators are responsible for one third of all the food we eat. So, whether its school gardens, apartment window boxes or farm borders, Phillips says every pollinator-friendly effort helps.

"It's very small to very big,” she explains. “Some of these are creating tremendous acres of habitat and others are kind of connecting corridors across urban settings. So, both of those approaches are equally valuable."

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge hopes to meet its million-garden goal by the end of this year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY