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Montana Ag Network: Ranch families wanted to help preserve monar - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Montana Ag Network: Ranch families wanted to help preserve monarch habitats

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As monarch butterflies prepare to fly north, Montana farm and ranch families are encouraged to help provide a layover for these iconic insects by planting milkweed habitats along the migration path.

“With the Monarch Challenge, we’re providing tools and resources to farmers and members of farm families to help establish and conserve habitat for monarch butterflies” said Laura Vance, BASF Biology Project Leader and Monarch Challenge expert.

Part of BASF’s Living Acres sustainability platform, farm and ranch families are positioned to positively impact the monarch population.

“The reason we’re doing this is because the monarch population has declined by over 90 percent in the past 20 years," Vance said. "So, we’re trying to help the population rebound.”

There’s a good reason why milkweed is an important part of the monarch’s life cycle.

“That’s because milkweed is the only plant that the monarch’s will lay their eggs on” said Vance. “Milkweed has a toxin in the leaves and when the eggs hatch the caterpillars eat the leaves and that toxin makes them toxic to predators. That’s why they can be so brightly colored and not get eaten.”

Farmers like Montana Grain Growers President Michelle Erickson-Jones from Broadview say protecting pollinators is important for Agriculture.

“Protecting the pollinators is obviously important for the globe in general but it’s also important for Agriculture” said Erickson-Jones. “We’re certainly looking at species to protect and maintain their habitat. BASF’s initiative for planting milkweed is a great way for people to get involved not only for non-planted parts of their farm but also their yard.”

With the success of last year’s challenge and the continued interest in aiding these iconic insects, BASF is looking to grow the program to 1,000 farm families in 2018.

“We had a lot of enthusiasm last year," Vance said. "We talked with a lot of farmers who have memories of seeing flocks of monarchs pass through their farms when they were kids and they don’t see that anymore and they want to make sure the monarchs are there for their grandkids.”

Now’s the time for farm and ranch families to get involved with the challenge and receive their own milkweed seedlings to plant this spring. To sign up, visit www.monarchchallenge.com.

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