From IDOT to School Gardens: Providing Sanctuary for Monarch Butterflies
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) recently joined a national campaign to protect endangered monarch butterflies. As of May 2017, IDOT is mowing only 15 feet from the edge of roadways, reducing the total amount of mowed land, allowing milkweed plants to grow to maturity. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed plants. Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn believes that IDOT must “act as a steward of the environment” given the fact that IDOT maintains one of the highest rates of land ownership in Illinois.
Monarch populations worldwide have decreased drastically by almost 90% over the past 20 years. Schools, states, and other agencies are undertaking initiatives to protect monarch communities. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has called on schools to use the decline in monarchs as an educational opportunity, especially given that the monarch is Illinois’ state insect. Schools across the country are growing organic gardens on school grounds and incorporating monarch education into technology, math, science, and art courses.
Funding for school gardens through programs including the USDA Farm to School Grant, Funding for Farmers, University of Illinois Extension and School Garden Grants encourage schools to continue such initiatives. More information about monarchs especially for educators can be found here.
*Ala Salameh will be a second-year law student at Loyola University Chicago this fall and is a Franczek P.C. LEADS Fellow