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Grant to provide Monarch butterfly habitat along Cowboy Trail

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has received a $150,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to provide habitat for Monarch butterflies.

The grant will allow the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to plant milkweed along stretches of the National Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail. Milkweed is essential to the Monarchs; they lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and larvae feed on milkweed. In recent years, the amount of milkweed along Monarchs’ migration path has declined. The decline of milkweed, combined with a decline in the butterflies’ winter habitat in Mexico, has resulted in a drop in Monarch numbers over the past few years.

In September, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, in cooperation with partner organizations, planted 3,000 milkweed seedlings along stretches of the Cowboy Trail near Bassett and Norfolk. Over the course of the next two years, Game and Parks and partner organizations will plant approximately 140 acres along the Cowboy Trail and at several state parks and recreation areas with a combination of milkweed and native prairie plants beneficial to bees and other pollinator species.

Additionally, Game and Parks educators will work with school groups along the Cowboy Trail to implement service learning projects to include both planting milkweed plants and monitoring the habitat. Lessons about pollination, pollinators and the role they play in the ecosystem will also be implemented. Education work will also include educator workshops and curriculums.

“We are excited that the right-of-way along the Cowboy Trail is being put to good use,” said Kirk Nelson, assistant Planning and Programming division administrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “We are hopeful this project will aid in the recovery of the Monarch butterfly, and that community groups learn about the importance of habitat conservation in the process.”

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