Monarch butterfly finds a new friend in Kandiyohi County

Shelby Lindrud, West Central Tribune, Willmar, Minn.
·3 min read

Mar. 30—WILLMAR — While the monarch butterfly will have to wait for the United States to list it as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, Kandiyohi County is going forward with its plan to set aside acres of right of way as protected monarch butterfly habitat.

"We just want to do what is right. We don't want to ruin the environment," said Mel Odens, Kandiyohi County Public Works Director.

Odens, along with Angelica Hopp, county buffer compliance technician, updated the Kandiyohi County Board on the county's application to join the Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterfly on Energy and Transportation Land conservation program.

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"We are the first county in Minnesota to get it," Odens said during the March 16 meeting.

The agreement was created by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the University of Illinois Chicago, in an effort to protect the butterfly and help its numbers rebound. The goal is to set aside 465,000 acres of rights of way as protected monarch butterfly habitat across the country.

Not only will the program help the monarch butterfly population, but it will also help Kandiyohi County keep on schedule for any future road projects. As a participating county, if the monarch is ever listed, Kandiyohi County will not be impacted by additional restrictions placed on public works projects around butterfly habitat. This will save not only money, but time.

"We can avoid delay. Delay is your biggest enemy here," Odens said.

As a participating county, Kandiyohi County will be setting aside 5 percent of its right-of-way acreage along county roads as protected and maintained butterfly habitat. This means making sure there is enough milkweed growing and also reducing activity that could negatively impact the butterfly while it is in Minnesota over the summer. According to Hopp, the county has earmarked about 197 acres for the program.

The county will have to get the permission of the landowners before the acreage is officially adopted as habitat. The program is completely voluntary for landowners. Now that the county has been added to the program, staff will be reaching out to landowners to speak to them. So far the public reaction has been good.

"From what we have heard, it has been extremely positive," Hopp said.

Kandiyohi County Proposed Monarch Butterfly Habitat Acres by West Central Tribune on Scribd

The county will have to pay an annual fee to be part of the program. Year one is $6,182, which includes the $3,000 application fee. For every year after, the county will pay $3,182 — or less if the county decides to adopt more acres than required.

The County Commissioners gave their unanimous approval to authorize the program agreement and submit the first-year payment.

"It is very cool we are the first in the state to pursue this," said Commissioner Corky Berg.

The commissioners have been very supportive of the program and have even mentioned creating a similar program to assist more pollinators.

"These and other pollinators are absolutely critical to our ag industry," said Commissioner Steve Gardner. "I am fully supportive of this program."