In 2016, SMMPA began an effort to help develop new pollinator habitat in member communities. Specifically, this effort centered on helping protect the monarch butterfly, a species which has suffered a 90% reduction in its population in recent years.
The primary motivation for the program was that saving an iconic species like the monarch is simply the right thing to do. But, there are also some solid business reasons for undertaking such an effort. Pollinators like the monarch, are a critical component of some 40% of the food supply and SMMPA’s member utilities are located in an area of the country where agriculture and food processing are key industries. If those industries are threatened, the economic vitality of our member communities are as well. Because Minnesota is the northern point of the monarch’s migration path, having suitable habitat is critical to the ongoing survival of the butterfly.
This program also presented an opportunity to show that through voluntary action, industry and communities can demonstrate success in restoring monarch and other pollinator habitat and avoid having the monarch placed on the endangered species list. Such a designation would make securing and maintaining utility right-of-way much more difficult and expensive, which in turn will translate to higher utility rates for our member communities.
Working together, SMMPA member communities have established 45 monarch “waystations”, ranging from 100 to 1,000 square feet on utility, municipal or community property in 14 SMMPA member communities. Each site has signage describing the program and was planted by either utility employees or community groups. In addition, nearly 9,000 seed packages have been distributed to members of SMMPA communities to provide a simple, no-cost way for citizens to join the effort by establishing monarch habitat on their property.
In 2018, SMMPA will be establishing a three acre prairie that will include pollinator habitat at the site of its new Owatonna Energy Station.