Save Our Monarchs

When is the last time that you saw a monarch butterfly in a field or along a roadside?

The iconic insect has become less and less visible which is causing many to ask why.

According to the Save Our Monarchs Foundation, the monarch butterfly population has decreased by 90 percent in the last 15 years. Not only is this alarming for the loss of a beautiful species, but due to the loss of habitat, it could impact all pollinators, which in turn, drastically affects our food web. Without pollinators, most of our fruits and vegetables would not survive.

A few major contributors to the loss of habitat are an increase of mowing especially along roadways, the use of insecticides and herbicides and the reduction of native plants that thrive in our Michigan climate.

Fortunately, several, caring and dedicated people and organizations in Big Rapids initiated an effort in June to combat this loss of habitat. Brad Stermer who is the Environmental Specialist for the TransCanada Woolfolk Gas Plant and Carrie Weiss Stermer, the director for the Ferris State University’s Card Wildlife Education Center and Fine Art Gallery, came up with a plan.

In the first week of June, several employees of TransCanada and a variety of other volunteers from the Save Our Monarchs organization, representatives from local government and environmental organization , with the help of area school students gathered on property owned by Trans Canada.

They came to work and before they were done, had planted over 40 different varieties of native plants (including milkweed) within the 4,000 acres that encompass the Woolfolk Gas fields. “Our existing TransCanada assets align remarkably well with the monarch migratory route. Through our environmental partnership with SOM (Save Our Monarchs) we have an opportunity to play a larger role in directly supporting pollinator health over the long term,” said Brad.

In addition to this effort, Mayor Mark Warba of Big Rapids took the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge. Because of his pledge, nine different initiatives will be implemented in the city including the integration of Monarch butterfly conservation into the Park Master Plan and Sustainability Plan. It is important to note that Mayor Warba spent planting day getting his hands dirty with rest of us. Big Rapids residents are fortunate to have a caring environmental steward in the Mayor’s office.

If you wish to learn more about Monarchs and their plight, there is an extensive educational section of the Card Wildlife Education Center on the campus of Ferris State University dedicated to saving the Monarch. The facility is located on the ground floor of the Arts and Sciences Commons (Room 011) and is freeto the public. Go to for more information.

MRWA board members Nancy Burmeister and Jean LaLonde volunteered in the planting.

“It was a good feeling to know that I had contributed, even  just in  a small way, to helping secure the future of such a unique and beautiful species that is so special to our Michigan landscape”, said LaLonde.

So keep watching for those delicate orange and black winged butterflies floating over a flowering stalk

and find a way to do your part in keeping their kind available for generations to come.

Ed note: The author wishes to acknowledge the following individuals who were instrumental in moving this initiative forward:

  • Jennifer Duerr, outreach coordinator for Save Our Monarchs Foundation
  • Heather Bowman, director of public works for the city of Big Rapids
  • Charmaine Lucas, manager Mecosta Conservation District