Rosalynn Carter Trail expanding to help save monarch butterfly

Something has been missing from Middle Georgia gardens. Nature lovers may have noticed the lack of monarch butterflies. The familiar orange wings with black veins flutter between Canada and Mexico during annual migration that keeps them from wintering in freezing temperatures.

Milkweed plants in the Southeast and Midwest are the traditional breeding ground, but many butterflies die trying to find increasingly sparse pockets of the plant. A decline in native milkweed on Georgia roadsides and Midwest farms means fewer places to lay eggs. Caterpillars dine exclusively on milkweed.

“It’s easy for anybody to create habitat,” said Deborah Harris, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Evidently the monarchs will find your milkweed if you have it.” With the population down by up to 90 percent, Harris and others are leading valiant efforts to save the monarch.

The push is on to create 100 new habitats across Georgia and the Southeast to link gaps in the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail established in Plains in 2013. Last week in the Carters’ hometown, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife joined the Fish and Wildlife Service to announce a $130,000 investment to expand the trail in public lands, schools and parks.

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