RATHDRUM, Idaho — Officials in the northern Idaho city of Rathdrum are hoping a new designation will attract a new kind of tourists: Monarch butterflies.
The city is the first in the state to receive the Monarch City USA designation from the nonprofit group by the same name based in Maple Valley.
“The mayor (Vic Holmes) remembers the time when the monarch came through here, but it doesn’t anymore,” Leon Duce, city administrator, told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “He asked the Parks Department to look into this and, when the city council heard about this, it felt that it would be a good thing for the city to do.”
To get the designation, cities plant milkweed and nectar plants within their boundaries to attract and aid the iconic orange and black butterflies. The cities also might hold monarch festivals or other events. So far, 11 cities, villages and schools in eight states have become members of Monarch City USA. A lifetime membership costs $50.
Data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that nearly a billion monarch butterflies have vanished since 1990. The milkweed and nectar plants they rely on are decreasing across the country.
Rathdrum city administrator Leon Duce said city officials sought the designation after looking into whether milkweed is a noxious weed. Duce says they learned the plant category includes many flowering and native wildflowers.
“We didn’t want to be spreading weeds, but it turns out that there are a lot of flowering plants under the milkweed category,” he said. “Nobody wants to start spreading weeds. We want to plant plants that are flowering and makes the community look better.”
Duce said the Parks Department is coordinating with the volunteers of the adjacent community garden on organizing a spring planting of milkweeds at the site and exploring other ideas.
However, don’t necessarily expect a cluster of monarchs to land in Rathdrum this year, Duce said.
“Monarchs don’t have a road map of where the food is located so it may take a couple years before they find their way to Rathdrum as they migrate to discover their food sources,” he said.
The western population of monarchs often migrates to southern California, but has been found overwintering in Mexico as well.