Monarch butterflies and other important pollen carriers with dwindling populations will have a new layover in Minnesota this spring when grasses and flowers planted with the support of Great River Energy begin to blossom.

The Maple Grove-based G&T bought long-leaved bluets, pussytoes, wild onions, and harebells planted by local 5th graders recently at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. They will one day serve pollen carriers as sources of food and as shelter to lay eggs.

“As a cooperative, Great River Energy has a unique opportunity to serve in our local communities,” says Craig Poorker, the co-op’s land rights manager and an authority on habitats of pollen carriers. “One way we do that is through our environmental stewardship and our commitment to creating sustainable environments.”

“We are partnering with Three Rivers District Park for a planting next year, and we continue to look for other opportunities and partnerships,” says Jenny Guardia, communications coordinator for the G&T.

Great River Energy’s nearly 5,000 miles of transmission line corridors “provide a unique opportunity for us to take a part in leading the pollinator effort within the utility industry,” Guardia says.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that the North American monarch butterfly is “in trouble” and is encouraging landscaping where monarchs can lay eggs and caterpillars can feed to strengthen their population. Monarchs migrate through the U.S. Corn Belt on their trek between Mexico and Canada.

Great River Energy’s efforts seem to be paying off. Two summers ago, Poorker says he saw only one monarch butterfly at its headquarters, where acreage was returned to natural prairie with plenty of plantings for pollinators. This summer was different.

“This year, we saw hundreds and hundreds of monarch butterflies just on our campus right here. They are stopping here and laying eggs here in summer, and also feeding here as part of their fall migration,” Poorker says.

“The flowers we planted are blooming spring, summer and fall—all year around. It provides a food source for them a good part of the year.”

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