Winner: Jim Osborn, Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois

The monarch butterfly, like so many butterflies, is a remarkable and beautiful insect. Its beauty lies not only in its physical appearance but also in its remarkable life cycle, migration, symbolism, and ecological significance. One of the most remarkable aspects of monarch butterflies is their long-distance migration. Every year, millions of monarchs undertake an incredible journey, flying thousands of miles from Canada and the United States to Mexico or Southern California. This natural phenomenon showcases their resilience and adds to their enchantment.

The monarch butterfly population has been declining in recent years due to habitat loss, climate change, and pesticide use. As a result, their beauty becomes even more precious and a symbol of the need to protect and preserve our natural environment. Butterflies serves as a reminder of the wonders of nature and the importance of conservation efforts to ensure its continued existence.

The Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a pollinator garden to create habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. It has been a huge success. The garden provides an opportunity for visitors to learn about the importance of native plants and their role in supporting local wildlife, including pollinators. It showcases different gardening techniques that can be used to create wildlife-friendly habitats, such as planting native species, incorporating water features, and creating nesting structures.

In addition to its educational value, the garden also offers a peaceful and scenic setting for visitors to enjoy. It provides a chance to observe birds, butterflies, and other wildlife that are attracted to the diverse plant life within the garden. The garden and the milkweed field attract monarch butterflies who rely on milkweed plants as their exclusive host plant for laying eggs and as a food source for their caterpillars. The Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, along with refuge staff, work to maintain and restore milkweed populations within the refuge. By ensuring a healthy supply of milkweed and other nectar-rich plants, they provide crucial resources for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (CONWR) is a 43,890-acre national wildlife refuge located in southern Illinois. Established in 1947, the refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its primary objectives are to provide habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, conserve natural resources, and offer recreational opportunities to the public.

The refuge is supported by the Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the refuge’s mission. The Friends group consists of individuals passionate about conservation and wildlife preservation. They contribute their time, resources, and expertise to assist with habitat restoration, wildlife monitoring, environmental education, and community outreach initiatives. The group organizes events, workshops, and guided tours that promote environmental awareness and engage the local community in conservation activities. To find out more about the Friends go to Friends of Crab Orchard NWR.

In summary, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is a diverse wildlife habitat that provides essential resources for a variety of species, including butterflies like the monarch. The Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge play a key role in supporting the refuge’s mission and working towards the conservation and preservation of butterflies and other wildlife.

Congratulations Jim!