Native American tribes in Oklahoma will grow milkweed and other plants on their land to help monarch butterflies make a come back, Reuters reports, after a drop in their numbers in recent years.
The initiative is part of the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund, which was set up last year by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with a $250,000 grant to support the butterfly population as it migrates north to Canada for the summer and south to Mexico for the winter each year, stopping in the U.S. on the way.
The number of butterflies migrating has dropped from 1 billion in 1996 to 35 million in 2013, Reuters reports. Monarch Watch, a non-profit run by the University of Kansas to advocate for monarch butterfly preservation, say this drop is because of a combination of harsher weather in Mexico and the loss of butterfly habitats when land is converted to be used to grow crops like corn and soybeans instead.
Tribes including the Chickasaw Nation, Muscogee Creek Nation, and Miami Nation are involved in the program to rehabilitate land that's on the butterfly migration path.
“The tribes have an important role in the effort to restore monarch habitat,” Rob Blumenthal, a spokesperson for the foundation, told Indian Country Today Media Network when the fund was set up. “Tribal lands make up a significant percentage of total land in states the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund is prioritizing, and the participation of these tribes will further monarch conservation substantially.”
The project could end up helping not just monarch butterflies, but other important species as well, The Chickasaw Times reported.
“The good thing is we are not just helping monarchs, we’re helping all pollinators, especially the honey bee,” Chickasaw Nation Greenhouse Supervisor David Correll told the publication. “The honey bee loves all of these plants as much as the monarch.”