Protecting the Environment 2016

[from the 2016 accomplishment report]

Although many people think MGVs only work with flowers or landscaping, they are also involved in many projects related to a variety of environmental issues. MGVs educate the public about preserving the natural beauty that is such an asset to our state and are active in raising awareness of exotic invasive plants and insects which disrupt native habitats and threaten indigenous inhabitants. Garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, gypsy moth, buckthorn and Japanese beetle are just some of the invasive species MGVs respond to with both education and action. Many MGVs are involved with habitat protection or restoration projects. They may educate the public about native plants and animals, work to maintain native plantings, or restore damaged areas.

  • MGVs in Green County assisted with planning, planting and maintaining an educational prairie garden on the grounds of the Swiss Historical Village Museum in a collaborative effort with Prairie Enthusiasts and New Glarus High School volunteers. The 500 ft2 area along the side of the Museum’s Farm Implement building and offers visitors an opportunity to reflect on landscape of the area at the time immigrants arrived in Wisconsin, in 1845.  A MGV who has an extensive prairie planting on her own property donated more than 100 plants for the plot. More than 5,000 people visit the museum annually and will be able to learn and enjoy this unique garden.
  • In Chippewa County, Bluebird Trail volunteers spent another season monitoring nest boxes on Old Abe and Riverview trails. MGVs helped add 52 bluebirds to Chippewa County’s population.
  • Brown County MGVs planted and maintain over 1,200 native plants on the Riverwalk and Wildlife Viewing Pier in Voyageur Park along the Fox River in De Pere and also maintain a Native Garden at Unity Hospice, also in the city of De Pere.
  • Vilas County’s Native Garden project brought together Northern Pines School District students and staff, Vilas County Conservation staff, and Vilas County MGVs to give gardeners more  options for plant species that are not invasive and destructive to Northwoods habitats and that will benefit native pollinators and fauna that depend on native plant species for survival.

    Milkweeds for Monarchs

    monarch-larva1Jackson County MGVs maintain a monarch butterfly habitat demonstration plot at the Spaulding Road Community Garden in partnership with the city of Black River Falls and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Five species of milkweed were planted in 2015 to grow plants for monarch caterpillars and other pollinators. This year MGVs collected seed from six milkweed species there to shared with more than 20 community members so they can plant their own milkweeds to help encourage survival of the butterflies.

  • In Crawford County, MGVs are involved with monarch butterfly conservation, promoting the different types of milkweed that are best for this threatened butterfly;  educating others about being careful with pesticides; and making presentations to 3rd graders in area schools.
  • In Kenosha County, MGVs  planted a rain garden with various native plants at the Somers Town Hall.  Educational signage explains the reasoning behind planting a rain garden and offers suggestions on plant selection.
  • MGVs in Door County and other volunteers planted plugs of native emergent plants on the edge of two sections of Bradley Lake as part of the Little Lake Restoration Project, an Engineered Wetland that will divert street runoff or storm water from 260 acres on the northeast side of Sturgeon Bay.
  • MGVs played a role in a multi-institution project to reduce exposure to lead in urban backyard gardening, participating in educational workshops for residents of two target neighborhoods in Milwaukee, with MGVs answering general gardening questions as one of 3 breakout sessions for all participants.

Pollinator Protection

More than three-quarters of the world’s food crops rely on pollination by insects and other animals. But many of these species are now under threat from disease, pesticides and habitat loss. Globally there are more than 20,000 species of wild bees alone, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals that contribute to pollination. Native pollinators are at risk of disappearing from our landscapes. Lack of consistent food sources throughout the year, parasite challenges, and sensitivity to certain pesticides all contribute to the decline of the current pollinator population. In Wisconsin, pollinator-dependent crops account for over $55 million in annual production. MGVs are involved in improving public understanding of the role of these beneficial animals and helping expand the quality and quantity of habitat for pollinators and minimizing risks.

  • Marquette County MGVs packaged butterfly weed and sunflower seeds to distribute to over 65 children and their families at a variety of local events, to plant in their own neighborhoods to help promote more consistent food sources for pollinators throughout the summer. Their 2016 Garden Walk theme was Pollinator Paradise, with UW-Extension publications available on pollinators.
  • North Country MGVS (Washburn, Sawyer, and Burnett Counties) focused on pollinators with seminars at local libraries, garden clubs, and at the Spooner Research Station about the value of native plants and the effects on native bees, butterflies and other pollinators.  Between these seminars and their annual symposium, over 300 people indicated pollinators and native plants were valuable to them.

    The Bee Hotel Project

    bee-hotelBee hotels are man-made structures that provide nesting habitat for solitary bees.  This joint UW-Extension and Walworth County MGV project was designed to engage local youth with education at the 2016 Farm Technology Days and strengthen the relationship between schools and UW-Extension horticulture. Overall, 16 classrooms and multiple individuals signed up to build bee hotels, including over 200 youth and 25 adult learners.  UW-Extension staff and MGVs mentored classrooms and provided hands-on lessons about pollinators.  Many of the hotels can now be seen at local county parks.

  • Chippewa County MGVs maintain a native plant demonstration pollinator garden at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds. MGVs collaborated with the Bloomer Middle School Art Club to paint bees and butterflies on the newly painted building behind the garden. Weekly events to the fairgrounds attract over 250,000 people throughout the year and many enjoy the garden. The MGV’s booth at the Fair –all about pollinator gardens, monarchs, caterpillars and kids—drew hundreds of visitors this year.
  • In Marinette County, MGVs taught 105 4th grade students about beneficial insects at Environmental Field Days. Each child created an insect hotel to take home to share with their families so they may observe insect activity in their own yard.
  • A joint project between Winnbago County MGVs and the Neenah Library to create sustainable gardens on the library grounds included a butterfly garden that will be registered as a Monarch Waystation, bee hotels and an emphasis on pollinator education.
  • Sauk County MGVs started a Monarch Trail at the Reedsburg Historical Society last year, which is now a Monarch and Pollinator Trail.  Ten bat houses were erected along with bird houses, native bee habitats and a two-acre butterfly garden. There are also three honeybee hives in pollinator areas.  Three-hundred milkweed seedlings and two-hundred dollars’ worth of prairie plants were donated this spring by the Reedsburg Historical Society to add to the Trail.

These are just a few examples of the many ways MGVs throughout Wisconsin are working to protect plants, anmilas and the environment in our communities. Read more stories about the success of MGVs working with people in their communities on the pages in the full 2016 MG Program Annual Report.