Conservation project to benefit birds, butterflies

If you’re riding your bicycle along Lake Superior between the Michigan Welcome Center in Harvey and the mouth of the Carp River in Marquette, you might see newly planted garden spots along the way.

Those are courtesy of the Great Lakes Conservation Corps, administered by the Superior Watershed Partnership whose offices are on Presque Isle.

Emily Goodman is overseeing the Climate Conservation Corps, an expansion group of the GLCC.

The new project’s goal, she said, is to enhance and restore the diversity and abundance of important coastal stopover habitat used by migratory bird species and the monarch butterfly, the population of which which has declined 80 percent from historic average population levels in recent years.

Monarchs in the eastern United States migrate all the way to Mexico, and they need stopover sites like the ones being created along U.S. 41 on their long journeys.

Those “mini-gardens” along three overlapping trails – the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, the North Country Trail and the Iron Belle Trail – have been planted with milkweed, the monarch’s sustenance food.

Basically, fewer milkweed plants mean fewer monarch butterflies, and who doesn’t want to keep seeing those beautiful, orange insects in the sky?

The SWP project, though, also will benefit bird species.

Dealing with climate change is another benefit. The project is focused on the coastal zone, and the project also is expected to stabilize the banks. That’s a welcome idea considering the recent rising lake levels, which it is believed are a result of climate change.

Visibility can be a good thing as well, and it is in this instance. The fact the area is well used by bicyclists and other travelers makes for a good educational opportunity for them to interact with the conservation workers and learn more about the importance of the project.

Since invasive species are being removed and other native vegetation, including black-eyed Susans, are being put in the ground, the project will enhance the aesthetics of the 2-mile linear stretch of land.

Eventually, wildflowers will fill in those spots, filling the air with the scent of milkweed blossoms and eventually the sight of monarch butterflies.

Regardless of a person’s opinion on climate change – what can be done about it or whether it even exists – hikers, bicyclists and anyone traveling along the trail along U.S. 41 should have more to admire as the plots thicken and develop.

That’s certainly something to be anticipated.

Mining Journal (Marquette)