Monarch and Pollinator Conservation Initiatives: A Webinar with Ward Laboratories, Inc.

Casey France of Ward Laboratories, Inc. and Amy Snelgrove of Texan by Nature joined together to discuss “Monarch and Pollinator Conservation Initiatives” during a live webinar. Over 100 people from across the nation attended the event and participated through a Q+A with Casey and Amy.

As pollinator populations continue to face threats, Casey introduces a discussion surrounding the ideas of “Plight and Flight.” ‘Plight’ refers to the endangerment of important pollinator species and the increased need to take action to salvage the environment for their habitat. Pollinators also have an expansive migratory route in which they pollinate agricultural and urban plants, otherwise referred to as ‘flight.’

Texan by Nature’s role in conservation

At Texan by Nature, our mission is to unite conservation and business for our state’s people, prosperity, and natural resources. To achieve this, we amplify projects and activate new investment through our programs and partnerships.

Core Programs

Our key programs include:

  • Conservation Wrangler – Each year, Texan by Nature selects six innovative and transformative projects to participate in this accelerator program. The program highlights the very best Texan-led conservation projects that demonstrate a positive Return on Conservation for people, prosperity, and natural resources. The TxN Team supports select innovative and transformative projects in the field of conservation with tailored aid, resources, and visibility.
  • TxN Certification – This certification acts as Texan by Nature’s stamp of approval to recognize the employers, organizations, and individuals for their meaningful conservation efforts. TxN Certified projects act as models for others to learn from and recreate.
  • Symposia Series – Our symposia identify key topics related to natural resource conservation and connects the brightest minds to discuss emergent issues & results in productive partnership, research, and funding. Our topics of focus include leadership roundtables, health & nature, and monarchs & pollinators. 

Habitats on Right-of-Ways

Monarch populations have declined drastically over the last 20 years, by up to 90 percent, and were petitioned to be listed as threatened or endangered in 2014. This species is at a critically low population level and conservationists across the entire pollinator flight are working to provide habitat to assist in monarch’s international migration. This species is crucial to our ecosystem, our food supply, and our economy.

At Texan by Nature, we realize the important role we as people play in the recovery of the monarch through our conservation efforts. In 2017, we held a symposium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin to collaborate with researchers and conservationists from the South-Central region of the migratory path, which includes the states of Texas and Oklahoma. This two-day workshop addressed current needs and new recommendations to begin enacting change.

Two recurring themes that continue to surface through our collaborative efforts are the supply and demand of native seed and the potential rights-of-way holds throughout the South-Central region. In 2018, Texan by Nature launched a second phase of pollinator initiative in partnership with EOG Resources, Inc. (EOG) to create 350 acres of native pollinator habitat on oil & gas rights-of-way. As we continue to explore additional acreage options and monitor progress in the field, collaborating with partners helps us to continue the momentum within the industry and challenge others to duplicate these efforts.

Mixing Business and Pollinators

In addition to our symposia series and pollinator project with EOG, we continue to highlight our partners efforts to create pollinator habitat on their company campuses throughout the TxN Certification program.

Headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, Dell is located along the migratory path and has implemented a garden to provide increased habitat for these pollinators. This garden not only benefits monarchs, but other pollinator species as well as ecosystem services on-site at the Dell campus. These efforts also keep conservation top-of-mind for employees and visitors at Dell.

Additional TxN Certified businesses that have implemented pollinator conservation efforts through habitat restoration and creation include:

Our website and social media keep our audiences engaged and showcase our commitment to conservation. Specifically, the Monarch Resources page on our website provides tips to successfully implement pollinator habitat and promote the conservation of our land, wildlife, and natural resources.

These businesses understand that good stewardship is good business; investment in our state’s people, prosperity, and natural resources promotes a significant Return on Conservation. At Texan by Nature, we believe that collaboration is critical to conservation. Whether it’s a patio of an apartment complex or a landowner with thousands of acres, everyone can do their part to commit to conservation and support our pollinators. By working together, we will be able to learn from one another, combat the loss of pollinators, and create a positive impact for our people, prosperity, and natural resources.

Q + A

Q: Can companies and organizations that are outside of Texas become Texan by Nature (TxN) Certified?

A: We currently highlight projects that positively impact Texas’ people, prosperity, and natural resources. If you have a project with significant impact to people, prosperity, and natural resources outside of Texas and want to join Texan by Nature in getting your project TxN Certified – join us! We want to highlight successful conservation projects for others to learn from and recreate, no matter where they are located.

Q: Why did the pollinator populations have a sudden increase a couple of years ago (2018) and a big decrease last summer (2019)?

A: In 2018, the great weather conditions along the migratory path along with increased availability of food and habitat may have contributed to this increase. However, researchers are still trying to understand the cause of this to continue combating the loss of pollinators.

Q: Is milkweed annual or perennial?

A: Milkweed is perennial, or it will persist on the landscape for longer than one year under optimal circumstances. (Annual plants only live on the landscape for a year while perennials are rooted for concurring years.) Additionally, there is tropical milkweed and native milkweed. Native milkweed is preferred in the recovery of the monarch and maintaining habitat. Learn more about milkweed here.

Q: Milkweed is poisonous for grazing wildlife. Do you have tips for people who want to maintain monarch habitat but do not want to risk livestock illness or loss of livestock?

A: We know milkweed is poisonous to cattle if consumed in larger quantities. although some studies show that cattle will not feed on milkweed unless there aren’t other grasses present to feed on. Learn more about milkweed here.

Q: What is the plan for maintaining pollinator habitats as they don’t last? For example, my pollinator habitats on the corners of a centered-pivot irrigation system in Wyoming has to be reseeded every four years.

A: Be sure that you are planting a pollinator mix that is suitable for and native to your region.

Q: Is there a list of seed vendors that would provide these seed mixes?

A: There are plenty of resources available to meet your seed needs, dependent on your region. One example is the Xerces Society. You can also find available resources on the Texan by Nature website.

Q: What are your monitoring protocols for the planted sites and how often will these efforts occur?

A: We visit our sites quarterly to monitor their progress and are using the Quadrat method to determine species count, cover density, and frequency.

Q: Do you work with Junior Master Gardeners to promote their excellent work?

A: We have not yet worked with the Junior Master Gardeners, but will reach out to them! We have worked with Texas Master Naturalists and Master Gardener chapters across the state. Members of these groups participated in our symposia and are involved in some of our projects.

Q: How do TxN’s pollinator initiatives affect quail habitats?

A: Pollinator habitat and quail habitat are very similar. When we visit with landowners, we use a handout to explain that habitat that benefits pollinators also benefits upland gamebird species like quail. We use the evidence of these benefits to encourage landowners to further their commitment to conservation.

Q: Is there a certain size of project that is desired by TxN?

A: In short, not at all! Texan by Nature works with projects at every level – business, organization, and individual. While we offer certain programs that are more tailored to larger projects, there is a place for everyone to be Texan by Nature. Any level of commitment to conservation helps.

Q: What variety of milkweed is preferred?

A: This is dependent on the geography of your region. The reason we promote milkweed so heavily is because this is the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Full-grown monarchs can use any pollen-producing plants to their benefit, but without milkweed we would not have monarch butterflies. Learn more about milkweed here.

Q: Are there any grants available to private landowners?

A: Yes! Some helpful resources include:

Additionally, we recommend reaching out to your state & local wildlife organizations to best meet the needs specific to your climate, ecosystem, and geography.

Q: What are your suggestions to preserving native milkweeds in open spaces?

A: There is an active effort to avoid mowing and spraying milkweeds. Because the plant is easy to identify, there is educational outreach being conducted to inform the public on the importance of the conservation of this plant.