Monarchs need our help

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SIR: It is an unfortunate reality that a common consequence of our human existence is one of fellow species destruction. As our technology increases, so follows our demands on our finite resources, and the destruction becomes more acute.

As necessary as modern agricultural practices are perceived to be in the Western world, the reality is that this modern technology results in an ever-increasing assault on the biodiversity of the planet. A modern monoculture field of corn or soybeans is a biodiversity disaster area that would rival, and in fact, may be inferior to one of the world’s recognized desert areas.

The variance in the species composition of one acre of corn in Chatham-Kent in relation to one acre of rain forest would boggle the mind.

It should be common sense that species destruction as a normal consequence of modern agriculture should not be ignored.

One of the most recent and pressing consequences of our modern human society is the destruction of the very narrow survival parameters for the monarch butterfly. Monarch counts have shown an alarming decline in just the last few years. The numbers were so low that in 2013, the traditional Monarch count in Point Pelee was cancelled.

Research has shown that one of the major contributors to this decline is the dramatic decrease in milkweed throughout their migratory range.

As a consequence of the intense agricultural activity within C-K and the corresponding frequent application of herbicides, a common casualty is the milkweed. This has recently been exacerbated by the recent trend in rural CK to manicure the roadside ditch areas with the elimination of some of the only milkweed habitat available.

The province has removed milkweed from the obnoxious weed list. This step is significant due to the fact that the monarch will only reproduce on the milkweed species of plants.

In support of this, and in an effort to save the monarch, a number of C-K organizations and groups have joined together in an effort to enhance the naturally occurring milkweed population. This umbrella group is made up of the Lower Thames Conservation Authority, the Sydenham Field Naturalists, the National Farmers Union of C-K, the C-K Christian Farmers of Ontario, and the Great Lakes Community Eco Initiative group.

In an effort to obtain critical funding, an application was made to the Chatham-Kent Community Foundation. This request was denied. This decision was especially frustrating due to the fact that major funding for the foundation is coming from the South Kent Wind project, and turbines are a significant concern in regards to their impact on monarch migratory routes. This is obviously of prime significance in C-K with our 500-plus turbines.

The Ahcom Shrine Club of C-K, however, granted funding, and we have been able to proceed with initiative.

Our plan is to collect milkweed seeds this fall and to propagate as many plants as possible. We will be using the resources of a local greenhouse operator who has agreed to grow seedlings for us at a very reasonable cost. We also have a number of landowners within our group who have agreed to propagate seeds and develop milkweed areas on their farms.

This may seem like a very small effort to try to save a beautiful creature from extinction, but great things are accomplished in small steps.

If you are interested in participating in this program, landowner or otherwise, please contact myself, or one of our participating organizations.

Gary Eagleson

Chatham

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