The National Wildlife Federation has also developed a Monarch Urban Outreach Program to help urban communities take significant action on behalf of monarch recovery. One component of the program is the Mayors' Monarch Pledge which encourages cities and municipalities to commit to creating monarch habitat and educating citizens about how they can make a difference at home. To date, 70 communities across the country have signed the pledge. Austin's Mayor Steve Adler was an early signer, and the City of Austin is actively working on plans to help restore monarch habitat.
NWF is working with local and national partners to help restore the monarch butterfly. The monarch migration is one of the natural world's most epic journeys. Monarchs journey up to 3,000 miles from their summer homes in America's backyards and grasslands to wintering grounds in Mexico's mountain forests.
Unfortunately, the monarch is in serious trouble - populations have declined by more than 90% in the past two decades, with potentially alarming consequences for natural ecosystems. The precipitous decline is primarily due to the loss of the monarch's exclusive larval host plant and a critical food source - native milkweed.
NWF is working to bring back the milkweed and other nectar-producing plants that the species relies upon for breeding and feeding along its migratory route - the I-35 corridor. To engage communities in restoration efforts, NWF created the Mayors' Monarch Pledge, a tool to get local governments involved in monarch recovery, and to encourage urban communities to take action.
Given our strategic location in the center of the migratory corridor, Austin can accomplish much for monarchs, by becoming a critical way-station for them during their migration to and from Mexico.
In addition to our community outreach initiatives, NWF is also working with schools to help in restoration efforts. Last fall we launched our Monarch Heroes program in partnership with Austin ISD to build awareness of the problem and empower students and community members to take action. Monarch Heroes engages students in creating habitat on their school campuses. Students and teachers alike are excited and rallying behind the Monarch Heroes program, implementing monarch gardens and engaging their neighboring communities to take action.
We've made great progress in our work to connect children and families to nature. With your help, we can continue to make a difference for wildlife in Austin and around Texas.
Your support can help us accomplish significant goals for 2015:
• Connect more kids to nature through our Monarch Heroes program on Austin ISD campuses, where students will learn about the key role pollinators play in our ecosystem and take action to help reverse the decline of Monarch butterflies.
• Develop resources to promote more wildlife habitats in Austin yards, businesses, and public spaces - pollinator gardens and more!
• Foster an environmental ethic in Austin students and their families.
NWF's Monarch Heroes program - teacher testimonials:
"The structure and support that NWF provides to create a project-based learning unit focused on life science and environmental stewardship have been the best things about the project for me and our team. The training and materials have made it very simple to design and implement."
"My students are taking charge and ownership of NWF's Monarch Heroes project. It's gratifying to see students continue to initiate projects and plans to support monarchs and their gardens."
"(Learning from nature) is not something that students are memorizing…but rather will be able to later apply what they've learned and that experience to new learning. And that's the goal of teaching."