Efforts to aid monarch butterflies take off in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Adult monarchs need flowering plants for nectar across the growing season. Prairie phlox, choke cherry and prairie lily are among early season nectar plants.

MADISON - Wisconsin efforts to help conserve monarchs are taking off as the iconic butterflies fly to their wintering grounds in Mexico.

The Department of Natural Resources recently learned its Natural Heritage Conservation program has won a $69,800 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore and enhance critical monarch butterfly habitat along the Mississippi River.

Monarchs have decreased 90 percent since the 1990s, imperiling the population we see in Wisconsin, which is known for its spectacular 2,000- to 3,000-mile yearly migration to Mexico.

The grant and matching funds contributed by NHC, county conservation departments and non-profit conservation groups totaling $109,785 will be used to restore and enhance 700 public and private acres at well-known places including Brady's Bluff Prairie State Natural Area in Perrot State Park and Hogback Prairie State Natural Area in Crawford County.

"Monarchs have declined by 90 percent since the 1990s and need whatever help they can get from government agencies, private industries, universities, property owners, and volunteers," says Drew Feldkirchner, who leads DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation program.

"We're excited this grant will help us restore habitat on the ground and advance our partnerships to help monarchs and many other species."

Habitat loss through the monarch’s breeding range, which includes Wisconsin, is considered the primary cause of the monarch population’s crash. As a result, one of the best things we can do for monarchs is to create new habitat for them. DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation program is restoring habitat on public lands; you can help too at home.

Habitat loss throughout the monarch's breeding range, which includes Wisconsin, is considered the primary cause of the monarch population's crash, Feldkirchner says.

Many Wisconsin organizations and individuals are taking steps to reduce the monarch's dramatic decline and increase its chances for future recovery, says Owen Boyle, Natural Heritage Conservation species management section chief. Other recent NHC monarch work includes:

  • Managing and restoring monarch and pollinator habitat on tens of thousands of acres, including numerous State Natural Areas.
  • Joining the Monarch Joint Venture, a partnership of more than 50 conservation, education, and research organizations from across the United States working together to conserve the monarch migration. Membership increases funding and networking opportunities.
  • Participating in a partnership with 15 other states to create a regional conservation plan for monarchs.
  • Co-organizing the Wisconsin Monarch Summit in May 2017 with the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and Sand County Foundation. This day-long gathering brought together more than 60 stakeholders from government agencies, universities, conservation organizations, and the utility, transportation and agricultural sectors to lay the foundation for a statewide monarch conservation strategy for Wisconsin.
  • Funding four monarch citizen science trainings throughout the state in 2017 with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and The Blue Mounds Area Project. Sixty-five volunteers were trained to collect information on monarchs, with more to come in 2018.
Native milkweeds are the only food source for monarch caterpillars.

Find more information about monarchs and other native pollinators and how you can help them on DNR's Native Pollinator webpage, as well as sign up to receive periodic email or text updates about monarchs. Visit and search keyword "pollinators."