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Former First Lady collaborates on conservation plan


AUSTIN – On Tuesday, Sept. 20, former First Lady Laura Bush, founder of Texan by Nature, joined with directors of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at BAE Systems, Inc. to celebrate the fall migration of monarch butterflies and to announce new collaborations in the state’s efforts to conserve pollinator habitat in Texas.
BAE Systems, one of the first corporations signed on to Texan by Nature’s Monarch Wrangler program, provides Texas employers and organizations with results-oriented – and meaningful ways – to become involved by creating habitat essential to the monarch butterfly.
Bush opened the event by tracing the history of Texan by Nature.
“A few years ago, I helped to found Texan by Nature with a group of friends and committed conservationists,” she said. “Today, our vision of strong partnerships between the business, conservation, and scientific communities for the betterment of our precious natural resources has truly come to life.”
According to the organizations involved, this collaboration is especially critical in addressing the plight of the monarch butterfly. Over the last two decades, the monarch’s rapidly declining population has alarmed experts due to the importance of pollinators to ecological and economic vitality.
“For Texas to remain a thriving central flyway for monarch butterflies, we must come together to conserve and create essential habitat along their migration route – the I-35 corridor just outside these doors,” she said. “We must support further research to identify the causes and solutions for their decline.”
“That means planting pollinator-friendly plants, like native Texas milkweed, in our school yards, at places of worship, on corporate campuses, on our ranches and farms, and in our own backyards,” she added, reiterating that all Texans can join the cause by applying to become a Monarch Wrangler on the Texan by Nature website.
As one of the early pilot projects in the Monarch Wrangler system, BAE Systems has already made significant progress in creating new monarch habitat in the flyway. Stephen Ford, program director at the BAE Austin Business Center, detailed how the company has removed invasive species, planted natives, begun collecting rainwater, implemented mobile irrigation and has engaged employees in conservation with education kits and seedball-making activities.
Bush, and all contributing organizations at the conference, hope more
companies will soon follow suit, enhancing Texas’ already impressive track record in the field of conservation.
Texas’ location in the middle of the central monarch migration route between Mexico and Canada makes the Lone Star state crucial in tri-national efforts to conserve monarch and pollinator habitat.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has launched an unprecedented communications campaign and conservation initiative, committing $2 million for monarch conservation projects in 2015 and $4 million for the next five years from 2016 to 2020.
Over the last decade, the migrating monarch population has decreased by 80, down from an estimated one billion in the 1990s, and falling to an all-time low percent of 35 million in 2013. Monarch butterflies and other pollinators who share their habitat, such as hummingbirds and beneficial insects, are a vital part of nature’s life cycle. Pollinators ensure the reproduction of flowering plants and pollinate agricultural crops fundamental to the economy and well-being of Texans.