Planting vital habitat for butterflies in Central Oregon

We love creating habitat for native species in the Old Mill District. In fact, before we even built our district, we spent years restoring the river and riverbanks so that our region’s flora and fauna could thrive once again. Now, we’re working with the Deschutes Land Trust to support its program for bringing the monarch butterfly back to Bend. 

This large orange and white beauty is in trouble. Once abundant, the monarch population has declined by 90 percent since the 1990s, with a recent report indicating even more alarming numbers in the western U.S. where it has plummeted by 99 percent. Just to put this in perspective, in the winter of 2017-18 during a population count in California, around 150,000 monarchs were counted. The very next year, in the winter of 2018-19, only 20,456 monarchs were recorded. This is a huge drop! When you consider that only 2-5% of monarch eggs make it to adulthood, we need to provide these butterflies with the best chance possible for survival. 

Part of the reason for the butterfly’s plight is that much of its native habitat has disappeared, due in part to pesticide use and climate change. The butterfly relies on native milkweed for a good part of its life cycle. In fact it is vital, as female monarchs will lay their eggs exclusively on this plant’s leaves and it is the only plant that the caterpillars will eat on their way to their full beauty. While adult butterflies diversify their diet a bit more, they still rely on native milkweed for one-third of their sustenance. In short, this plant is critical.

That’s why we’ve created a partnership with the Deschutes Land Trust. The Land Trust already has a formal monarch preservation program in place, through which they have been planting milkweed and other beneficial native blooms on their preserve lands around the area. They know that planting milkweed can help reverse some of the habitat loss and give monarchs a chance of survival. By partnering with local businesses and organizations like ours, the Land Trust is able to expand this program off protected lands and into the heart of the community. This includes relationships with Central Oregon Community College, Bend Park & Recreation District and the Old Mill District. 

Last week, Bend Park & Recreation District staff planted milkweed as part of an annual employee river clean-up service project. They focused on Old Mill District property near McKay Park and Miller’s Landing Park, among other Central Oregon areas, for the plantings. Check out the TV news story here:

We are looking forward to seeing how efforts like these can help bring back the butterflies!