Grants Offered to Develop Monarch Butterfly Gardens

Native gardeners and Monarch Watch first extended an invitation in 2012 to schools, churches and other nonprofits to create gardens that would attract monarch butterflies, and offered grants to assist them.

Now a dozen years later, the annual invitation comes from the Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas committee of the Native Plant Society of Texas, which partners with Monarch Watch.

"The program has been growing," said Committee President Carol Clark. Last year, 46 grants were awarded compared to 12 in the first year. In 2012, the committee received 15 applications compared with 101 applications last year.

The time is now

Feb. 1 is the deadline to apply

Corporations and individuals donate to the program, and this year additional funding comes through a cooperative agreement with Monarch Joint Venture and the U.S. Forest Service. Grants this year are capped at a maximum of $600 each.

The committee's budget varies each year. The number and size of grants depends upon available funding

Winning applications include a good layout of a proposed garden, the use of native milkweed and nectar plants, and a readiness to get the garden going.

"Many grants have gone to schools," Clark said.

Private residential property doesn't qualify for a grant; it must be a nonprofit. Cities also qualify with projects proposed around municipal buildings or in parks.

A recent recipient, Camp Strake, owned by the Boy Scouts of America, Sam Houston Area Council, developed a monarch garden, Clark said. What surprised the applicant was the interaction the garden generated among Scouts. 

"Everyone got very vested," Clark said.

Meeting of the monarch minds

A vested group of Monarch followers began the program after attending a 2012 program about the butterflies. That group included Lonnie Childs, then NPSOT president; Kip Kiphart of Monarch Watch; Chip Taylor, founder of Monarch Watch; and Cathy Downs of the NPSOT and former committee chair.

"They had a meal together and decided something needed to be done. They talked far into the night," Clark said.

The intent is to offer attractive habitat for monarchs at a time when development continues to take up vacant land. Clark said figures show more than a million acres a year are lost.

Monarch Butterfly Garden | Vego Garden

Local short-term weather patterns, from Mexico to Canada, at different times, always positively or negatively affect the migration success and breeding success each year.

"The upshot is that monarchs can’t afford to have missing habitat,” Clark said.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey of the U.S. Department of Interior, climate change affects each life cycle of monarchs: Butterflies lay fewer eggs in wetter conditions; warmer temperatures reduce milkweed growth, leaving caterpillars hungry; and shifting seasons disrupt plants and migrations.

Monarchs migrate twice a year through Texas. In the fall, they travel to Mexico where they winter. In the spring they return to the United States and Canada. Clark said weather is always a major factor in the path and success of migration, and the population of monarchs has a lot of natural fluctuation which makes it impossible to directly measure the local impact of the grant program to foster the monarch population.

“We do get great reports from our grant participants about butterflies finding and using their gardens, so we feel sure they are doing some good,” Clark said.

 People who see the grant-funded monarch gardens might be encouraged to copy them in their backyards which would add to the habitat that supports monarchs. 

"It shows them native plants are not ugly and not messy; they're nice landscape plants," Clark said. Grants will be awarded in March and are to be spent by Oct. 31 of this year. Applicants are then required to submit a brief project report to the committee by Nov. 30.


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