City reconfirms commitment to help struggling monarch butterflies

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By Brendan Gibbons

October 16, 2017 Updated: October 17, 2017 9:22am San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg reconfirmed the city's commitment to monarch butterflies on Oct. 16, 2017, by taking the National Wildlife Federation's Mayors’ Monarch Pledge. San Antonio lies along the migration pathways that monarchs use to fly to Mexico for the winter. Photo: Brendan Gibbons / San Antonio Express-News /

San Antonio will continue to champion the monarch butterfly under Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who reaffirmed the city’s commitment to the struggling species at an event Monday.

San Antonio is an important way-station for the iconic butterflies, now part-way through their annual journey from the northern U.S. and Canada to Mexico, where they spend the winter. Driven by loss of habitat and food plants, the population of the monarch butterfly has declined from more than 1 billion in the mid-1990s to 109 million last winter, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service branch chief Tanya Sommer said.

“We can all help the monarch by planting native milkweeds and other nectar plants,” she said before recognizing San Antonio’s embrace of monarch protection.

Former Mayor Ivy Taylor first took the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge in 2015, agreeing to take on 24 items to promote the native nectar plants adult monarchs feed on and milkweed, the only food for monarch caterpillars.

“As our city grows, let’s continue to grow sustainably as we consider how to help the monarch,” Nirenberg said, before affixing a tag to a butterfly’s wing with the help of San Antonio Zoo staff.

Local government and agencies have already installed some monarch-friendly demonstration gardens, including one at Hardberger Park and another outside the San Antonio River Authority’s Guenther Street offices.

Tracking the monarchs

A look at monarch butterfly migration patterns and the changes in the butterfly population in the overwintering colonies in Mexico.

At Monday’s event, former mayor Phil Hardberger likened these landscapes to stops along a stagecoach route where travelers could get food, water, rest and fresh horses for the next leg of the journey.

“Butterflies have to do that too, except for the changing of horses,” he said.

Monarchs will stay in the spotlight this week with the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival Friday through Sunday.

bgibbons@express-news.net

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