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posted: 7/17/2017 9:43 AM

DuPage forest district works to improve butterfly habitat

DuPage forest district working to improve habitat for monarch butterflies, pollinators

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  • The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is working to improve butterfly and pollinator habitat at Night Heron Marsh Forest Preserve in Aurora by removing nonnative plant species and converting 23 acres of former agricultural land into prairie.

    The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is working to improve butterfly and pollinator habitat at Night Heron Marsh Forest Preserve in Aurora by removing nonnative plant species and converting 23 acres of former agricultural land into prairie.
    Courtesy of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

 
By Deb Humiston
Forest Preserve District of DuPage

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has started work to create and improve 87 acres of butterfly and pollinator habitat at Night Heron Marsh Forest Preserve near Eola Road and Liberty Street in Aurora.

The work is part of the collaborative 12-agency Fox Valley Monarch Corridor Project, led by The Conservation Foundation. The corridor extends over 975 acres and will establish or restore 10 multi-acre sites and hundreds of "steppingstone" sites on private land in neighborhoods and business parks to connect breeding and migration habitats of butterflies and other pollinators.

The district received a $40,000 matching grant from the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund to fund its portion of the project and an additional $10,000 from Openlands through the ComEd Green Region Grant Program. The district will use the money to control nonnative, aggressive and invasive plants on 64 acres and convert 23 acres of former agricultural land to prairie at Night Heron Marsh. The entire area then will be seeded with native plants, including milkweeds and other nectar producers.

Nectar is important to adult butterflies and other pollinators because it fuels them through the fall migration and winter hibernation. Milkweeds are vital to the early stages of the monarch life cycle because they're the only plants they eat as caterpillars.

"The Forest Preserve District is thrilled to collaborate with these organizations to support monarchs and other native pollinators," district President Joe Cantore said. "As a regional leader in the conservation and protection of imperiled species, we are fully committed to helping monarchs thrive again."

To help homeowners set up pollinator habitats in their own backyards, the district is offering free "Very Important Pollinator" seed mix packets. The packets contain native rose milkweed, New England aster, wild bergamot, foxglove beardtongue, yellow coneflower, black-eyed Susan, stiff goldenrod and little bluestem, and can be picked up at Danada Equestrian Center and Danada headquarters in Wheaton, Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center in Oak Brook, Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago, Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook and Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.

The Conservation Foundation received a nearly $250,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create and improve monarch butterfly habitat along the Fox River. The grant is funded by the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund and is financially supported by Monsanto Company as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service. Details are available on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation website, nfwf.org.

The ComEd Green Region Program awards grants to public agencies to support their efforts to plan for, protect and improve open space in ComEd's service area of northern Illinois, recognizing open space is a crucial quality-of-life component. Details are available on the Openlands website, openlands.org.

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