Montana

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The information in this state update was provided by Maggie Hirschauer at mhirschauer@mpgranch.com.  Please contact her for additional information about the update.

INTRODUCTION

Montana is a bit of an outlier among the western monarch states, sitting at the far northern tier of
North American monarch range and split by the Continental Divide into distinct western and eastern
regions. Yet Montana supports pockets of high-quality milkweed habitats and supports breeding
populations of monarchs on both sides of the Divide.


Montana’s geography and complex topography raise intriguing questions about the source of its
monarch breeding population. Western breeding grounds are roughly defined as being west of the
Rocky Mountain Divide, while the eastern monarch population’s breeding grounds generally lie in the
prairies and badlands to the east. But just how permeable are these boundaries and how does
Montana’s topographic relief influence western and eastern monarch movements and seasonal
distributions?

 

And how do Montana’s extensive river systems and rich river valleys of milkweed and
nectar plants influence migratory connectivity between the western and eastern populations? There is much to learn about the relative importance of Montana to the western monarch population, but it is fair to say the contribution, though likely modest, only adds to the species’ viability and resiliency
across its western range.

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Showy Milkweed in full bloom at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge | Photo credit Maggie Hirschauer

NEWS UPDATE

By Maggie Hirschauer

Monarch Waystation Soundmap Project

 

How would you combine long-distance cycling, beautiful music, and monarch conservation? The
Monarch Waystation Soundmap Project is a star example of how one person can make a huge
difference. One of the best ways to contribute to monarch conservation is through planting native
milkweeds and other native nectar sources. Last fall, a few musician/cyclists across the Pacific
Northwest cycled parts of the monarchs’ southward migration route, planted native milkweed seeds
along the way, and composed music for each site. Each waystation was marked for future cyclists to
this spring and monitor for monarchs in coming years.


Erik Miron, who contributes to the project under the pen-name “Comrade Caracol” made several short trips across Montana to plant showy milkweed seeds in Whitefish and Columbia Falls’ Community Gardens, Swan Valley Community Library, Hwy-93 Bitterroot Bike Trail, and many more.

 

The project was founded by composer/cyclist Alex Wand and sound artist/computer programmer
Stephanie Chang Smith. Each waystation location on the project’s website provides clips of music
(mostly guitar) composed specifically for the location. Check out the website to connect with these
musicians and get involved.

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Playing outdoors to an all plant ‘audience’ is a drastic deviation from Erik’s other experiences playing
music in venues across Los Angeles. His band, The Vignes Rooftop Revival, was known as an eco-
friendly jazz band often seen biking across downtown LA with bass, drums, or guitar in tow. When
COVID-19 turned everyone’s world upside-down, Erik came home to Montana for a while and
decided to turn his creative efforts toward monarch conservation. If we all took Erik’s lead to dedicate our actions toward other species’ survival, this world would be a much more positive (and musical) place.

Bitterroot Monarch Project

Missoula, Montana

 

How many monarchs are in western Montana? When are they here? Where do they come from, and
where do they go? These are just a few of the questions the Bitterroot Monarch Project hopes to answer.


The Bitterroot Monarch Project (BMP), started in the summer of 2019 and supported by the MPG
Ranch, aims to document milkweed across the northern 40 miles of the Bitterroot Valley, restore
milkweed through seed distribution and root cuttings, understand monarch biology and phenology in the region, and educate the public along the way.

BMP Stevensville roadside milkweed_photo

BMP Stevensville roadside milkweed photo credit Maggie Hirschauer: Milkweed surveys in the Bitterroot Valley discovered lots of showy milkweed along roadsides in Stevensville.

2021 marks the Project’s final season for data collection and official outreach efforts. Enthusiasm,
surprise (Monarchs in Montana!?), and interest from the surrounding community has grown the BMP
into a network of volunteers each championing their own milkweed site. This summer volunteers will survey milkweed weekly for monarchs following the methods of the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP). Data will be reported on the MLMP website for researchers to use nation-wide and will be compiled to gain a better understanding of monarch phenology in the region.

 

Only a handful of adult butterflies were seen across the Bitterroot Valley last summer. However,
volunteers’ hard work surveying milkweed paid off. Surveyors documented monarchs in Stevensville,
Missoula and at the National Bison Range, and we are hopeful to find monarchs again in 2021.

BMP Adult Feeds_photo credit Jordan Hoff

BMP Adult feeds photo credit Jordan Hoffmaster: A monarch female feeds on goldenrod (Solidago sp.) soon after release on the MPG Ranch.

Milkweed Resources in Western Montana

 

Planting (and protecting) milkweed and other native nectar sources is one of the best ways to help
native pollinators. I want to highlight two companies doing great work to propagate milkweed in
western Montana. Both of these companies refuse to use insecticides or chemicals in their efforts.

 

Montana Survival Seed: https://montanasurvivalseed.com

 

Great Bear Native Plants, Hamilton, MT: https://www.greatbearnativeplants.com

 

Look to the Xerces Society Milkweed Seed Finder tool to find milkweed further afield:
https://xerces.org/milkweed/milkweed-seed-finderResource finder

UPCOMING EVENTS

 

Click on the Google Document link below to see what upcoming monarch-related events are happening across Montana:

Videos about the Western Monarch Summit
MONARCH NEWS IN MONTANA
USEFUL LINKS
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Help Us Conserve the

Western Monarch

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