Elgin Subdivision Uses Milkweed Grant to Restore Habitat for Monarchs

Elgin Subdivision Uses Milkweed Grant to Restore Habitat for Monarchs

The residents of the Catatoga Subdivision in unincorporated Elgin Township have been chosen to receive an unusual grant in the form of 246 milkweed plants. The plants were given to the Catatoga Property Owners Association to create a welcoming environment for monarch butterflies. The milkweed also will enhance the CPOA’s efforts to restore its wildlife preserve to good ecological health.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the developers of Catatoga deliberately set aside 53 acres surrounding Fitchie Creek as a wildlife preserve. The preserve includes more than two miles of hiking trails. It is owned by the CPOA.

an image of Milkweed Buds

Most of the 53 acres has been designated high habitat value wetlands and high functional value wetlands by the Army Corps of Engineers. Fitchie Creek flows directly into Ferson/Otter Creek, which has been designated a high quality stream. This means Catatoga residents own more than just a pretty stretch of property. They are responsible for the maintenance and protection of an environmental treasure.

Until recently, the majority of Catatoga property owners mistakenly believed that benign neglect was sufficient to ensure that the land would remain ecologically healthy.

Unfortunately, that approach allowed the land to become overrun with invasive species, which have choked out the native species that native birds and other native wildlife need for food and habitat. This, in turn, disrupts the food chain in the wildlife preserve, reducing the varieties of native insects, birds and wildlife that can live there.

Recently, a small group of long-time Catatoga residents, mostly retirees, recognized that what has happened to the wildlife preserve is not good. This spring, the group began work on restoring the wildlife preserve to ecological health. Their plan includes a continuing effort to eradicate the invasive species that have spread through the wildlife preserve and replace them with native plants, which will attract and sustain the insects, birds and wildlife that are native to Kane County. Last week, they planted 29 oak trees donated by the Northern Kane County Chapter of Wild Ones, which, in turn, received the trees as a donation made by Dave Kaptain, the mayor of Elgin, and his wife, Sandy.

It has become common knowledge that the expansion of real estate development and the overuse of herbicides is turning diverse areas that once supported monarch butterflies, pollinators and other wildlife into grass-filled landscapes that can support only a few species. These trends are reducing the Monarch butterfly population, endangering its very existence in Kane County.

To address this crisis, Monarch Watch has initiated a nationwide landscape restoration program called “Bring Back The Monarchs.” Monarch caterpillars rely on milkweed as their food source. Thus, restoring native milkweed species to their proper ecoregions is critical to the goal of saving the Monarch butterfly, as well as other valuable pollinators.

As part of that program, Monarch Watch and the Natural Resources Defense Council are offering grants of free native milkweed plants to groups across the nation. The funding for the grant was provided by Monsanto Corporation.

Last fall, the CPOA applied for such a grant, thinking that the addition of native milkweed plants to its wildlife preserve would fit perfectly into its restoration effort. The application was successful, and soon, 246 milkweed seedlings will be delivered to the CPOA. The plants will be installed across the 53 acres of wildlife preserve. The CPOA hopes that the plants will spread and thrive, perhaps converting its wildlife preserve into a Monarch Waystation, frequented by the butterflies during their yearly migration.

When not planting trees and native plants, Catatoga residents are busy eradicating non-native species such as honeysuckle, buckthorn, garlic mustard, Canadian thistle and other invaders. They also plan to attempt to clear blockages from Fitchie Creek and establish a vegetative buffer along its banks, hoping to prevent erosion and reduce pollution of our Kane County waterways.

SOURCE: Catatoga Property Owners Association