OPPD’s ‘Prairie in Progress’ initiative hopes to bring back monarch butterflies

OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska) – Drive north on 204th Street toward Elkhorn and you’ll see development everywhere.

Drivers on Q Street can see construction equipment, signage for future projects, and mounds of dirt on both sides of the street.

But there is also something unusual. A large piece of land next to Pacific Street with a “Prairie Under Construction” sign. This is a haven for monarch butterflies.

Although it may seem inappropriate, the OPPD has set aside certain areas of land around Omaha and other parts of Nebraska for the cultivation of milkweed. This is where monarchs lay their eggs. Experts say this is the only food their caterpillars will eat.

Scientists believe that the sharp decline in milkweed is leading to a similar decline in the number of monarch butterflies in the country. As such, the power company is now in the midst of a multi-year plan with the Save Our Monarchs fund to try to bring them back.

“On large tracts of land that we spent a lot of time tending and mowing, we were looking for ways to cut costs,” said Chris Vrtiska, OPPD Wildlife and Resources Specialist. “When we looked into this, we realized that we could plan more for larger areas with naturalized wildflowers, prairies, grasses and the like.”

There is also a “Prairie in Progress” site at 142nd Street and in the state of northwest Omaha, as well as plants and pollination gardens at the huge OPPD Arboretum at 108th Street and in Blondeau.

“The monarch butterfly has been in decline for many years and it is still happening due to habitat reduction in the Midwest and across the country. Wherever we can improve this type of habitat and help them, that’s great, and it’s not just monarch butterflies, but pollinators in general, bees and other pollinating insects are also in decline.”

Other habitats include Fort Calhoun and Nebraska City.

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