S.A. champions monarchs

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Butterflies feed on fruit for the sweet juice. The San Antonio Zoo held Monarch Fest March 4-6 to celebrate the butterfly migration. Visitors learned about butterfly biology and ecosystem.  Photo by Robert Limon

Butterflies feed on fruit for the sweet juice. The San Antonio Zoo held Monarch Fest March 4-6 to celebrate the butterfly migration. Visitors learned about butterfly biology and ecosystem. Photo by Robert Limon

 Illustration by Juan Carlos Campos

Illustration by Juan Carlos Campos

This city was honored as the first monarch champion city in the U.S. for taking action in preserving the life of butterflies.

By Hillary E. Ratcliff

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

The “Texas funnel” is the final passage for migrating monarchs coming from northern and eastern North America before traveling into Mexico.

Within the Texas funnel is the I-35 corridor, cities and towns along Interstate 35 running through Texas.

A monarch caterpillar sits atop a milkweed branch, a beneficial plant to the butterflies.   Photo by Robert Limon

A monarch caterpillar sits atop a milkweed branch, a beneficial plant to the butterflies. Photo by Robert Limon

Along this popular highway frequented by thousands of cars is a common route for the butterflies.

There are plenty of restaurants and hotels along I-35 for travelers to stop at for rest and refueling; the same cannot be said for monarchs.

A population of butterflies is trying to survive diminishing food sources and habitats as a result of deforestation and project developments.

 Photo by Robert Limon

Photo by Robert Limon

As businesses and populations continue to grow along the I-35 corridor, more and more land is turned into subdivisions, shopping centers and paved roads.

The blossoming land of wildflowers has now been laid over with cement, brick and mortar to support encroaching developments. Unfortunately, cement will never be a replaceable food source for any species.

In an effort to keep Texas, specifically San Antonio, a pit stop for monarchs, several city leaders have started an innovative campaign to keep the I-35 corridor active.

Starting in fall 2015, Mayor Ivy Taylor was approached about signing the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge to protect the monarch butterfly in cities and municipalities.

The pledge holds participating cities and municipalities responsible for educating citizens on monarchs’ declining population, and promoting their preservation.

To become a participating city or municipality, a mayor has to agree with at least three specific federation actions. To join the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge Leadership Circle is an agreement of eight or more actions.

There are 24 actions falling under three categories: communications and convening, program and demonstration gardens, and system changes.

In Texas, 30 cities and municipalities have participated in the pledge, but only one has committed to all 24 actions.

The federation honored San Antonio as a Monarch Champion City in December.

From fall 2015 until Dec. 15, 2015, Taylor and city officials were ensuring San Antonio environmental organizations and local companies will help with the mayor’s commitment.

Going along with the terms of Taylor’s pledge is the chance of restoring and creating new habitats for monarchs to once again frequent.

Here in San Antonio, multiple city organizations, environmental groups and locals are taking on the challenge to make this city a premier hub within the Texas funnel.

The San Antonio River Authority had a booth March 4-6 at the Monarch Festival at the San Antonio Zoo educating children and adults on rain gardens.

At the event, representatives Michelle Garza and Lee Marlowe explained rain gardens’ effect on the fluctuating population of monarchs.

They had an interactive demonstration of how rain runs off rooftops into the streets and the San Antonio River.

Using a spray bottle of water, Marlowe sprayed the building within the model. From there the water ran down the gutter onto the land. Some of the water drained into the street, some into the grass, and some grazed the edge of nearby gardens.

The problem with this is that the water was going to waste and not probably being reused. Any water draining from buildings near the river is going directly into the river’s water system. Slowly over time, the river becomes polluted with particles carried by the rainwater.

In junctions complying with the federation’s 24 actions, the San Antonio River Authority has started planting gardens on its property to become a food source.

“The monarch flying in the sky can spot the gardens from above and is immediately attracted,” said Garza, information specialist at the San Antonio River Authority.

Here at this college, the Sinkin EcoCentro has a butterfly garden that continually attracts monarchs and other butterfly species daily. Steven Lewis, director of service at Sinkin EcoCentro, and his colleagues said they have has seen up to 10 monarchs frequenting EcoCentro’s garden in a day.

Despite chillier mornings, San Antonio presents optimal weather conditions for maintaining gardens and landscape to support migrating monarchs.

At the San Antonio Zoo, the Butterfly Exhibit opened March 4 during the Monarch Festival. The exhibit is open daily at 9 a.m. Admission is $1.50 after zoo admission.

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