License Plates for Pollinators: Illinois General Assembly Mulls New License Plate to Fund Monarch “Butterfly Highways” Habitat Restoration
CHICAGO (March 17, 2015) - Dwindling populations of monarch butterflies would get a boost from new legislation for a special Illinois state license plate featuring the state insect. Revenue from the sale of the monarch butterfly license plates would be used to expand acreage planted with milkweed, the plant monarchs need to survive. Senate Bill 1742 and House Bill 3465 will create a “Roadside Monarch Habitat Fund” for roadside monarch and other pollinator habitat development, enhancement, and restoration projects in Illinois.
“Milkweed habitat is the key to monarch recovery and our roadsides are one of the last, best places to plant it,” said Rebecca Riley, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This bill offers an easy way for every state official and citizen of Illinois to contribute to monarch conservation and help turn our roadways into butterfly highways.”
Milkweed is the only plant on which monarch butterflies lay their eggs and the sole food source for their larvae. In the last 15 years the monarch population has dropped dramatically from a high of a billion in the late 1990s to less than 56.5 million this year--the second lowest count on record. Once found in plentiful supply, milkweed has been largely eliminated from the Midwest.
The State of Illinois would not only be helping protect its state insect, but also save money as milkweed planted roadways require less maintenance. The bill comes on the heels of a January decision by the Illinois Tollway Authority to plant milkweed along the 286 miles of highway it controls.
“Illinois needs to be part of the solution to save the monarch butterfly. My legislation, which will restore and expand the vital monarch habitat essential piece to keeping them around our state for future generations of Illinoisans to enjoy,” said Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake).
Monarch butterflies make an amazing 2500-mile migration between Illinois and Mexico every year, traversing an array of barriers along the way.
“The monarch butterfly is an important component of Illinois’ wildlife,” said bill sponsor Representative Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez (D-Cicero). “This bill will help us preserve the monarch population for decades to come by protecting the delicate natural habitats they need to survive.”