Columbia has amazing parks, streams, and forests to explore. These natural resources can be found throughout Columbia and not only do they provide recreational opportunities but also clean air and water, shade, mental health benefits, materials and so much more. Oftentimes we think of natural resources or nature as only existing in parks or outside of city limits but this is not true. Your backyard, apartment complex, office building, synagogue, school, or wherever you go can support nature to varying degrees. It’s all about the type of plants that we surround ourselves with and a balance between people and wildlife.
Community conservation is all about bringing people closer to nature as well as improving the environment for people and wildlife through educational programming, habitat restoration, outreach, and strategic planning.
Education and Outreach
Mayors’ Monarch Pledge
The National Wildlife Federation launched the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge to engage cities, municipalities, and other communities in monarch butterfly conservation. In November 2016 the City of Columbia signed the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge committing Columbia to restoring native habitats by replanting with natives and managing invasive species, and to spreading the word about monarch butterfly conservation through school programs. Since signing the pledge the City has installed 15 acres of native prairie habitat on park lands and soon will be adding 27 acres of native habitat along roadsides. The Parks and Recreation Department started our Adopt-a-Trail program that focuses on invasive species removal along our trails. We have also worked with elementary school classes to install pollinator gardens on school grounds. For more information on the Pledge visit the National Wildlife Federation’s webpage.
Monarch Butterfly Garden @ City Hall, 701 E. Broadway
The Monarch Butterfly Garden at City Hall contains prairie and glade adapted plants including Missouri primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), purple poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata), and other native wildflowers and grasses. Visit grownative.org to find more information about native Missouri plants.
CoMo Wild Yards Program
The CoMo Wild Yards program is designed to help homeowners, businesses, and other landholders to convert their non-native landscaping to a native habitat that supports our local ecosystem, helps manage stormwater runoff, and create beautiful natural spaces all around us.
If you request a CoMo Wild Yard consultation you will be contacted by the Community Conservationist to schedule an appointment. On the day of your consultation, the Community Conservationist and volunteer Habitat Advisers will visit your property for 1 to 2 hours. We will walk with you through each section of your yard to discuss what actions are required to meet your conservation goals and make your property a native habitat. Upon completion of your consultation, the Community Conservationist will send a customized CoMo Wild Yards management plan that contains our recommendations for you to reach your conservation goals (including plant lists and a resource guide) as well as a roadmap for becoming a certified CoMo Wild Yards habitat. If you reach your goals and become a certified habitat you have the option to place a CoMo Wild Yards sign in your native landscape (see image for signage). Learn more about the program or request a consultation
Roadside Pollinator Program
Beginning in Spring 2019 the City of Columbia will be transitioning mowed turf grass along select roadsides into managed, native wildflower areas for pollinators. In addition to providing habitat to pollinators, the City’s Streets Division will also be saving money and reducing our municipal carbon emissions by not mowing the approximately eighty-eight (88) acres of roadside public right-of-way. More information on this program.
Grant Elementary Pollinator Garden
We installed two native pollinator gardens working with Grant Elementary School students and teachers. The 1st, 2nd, and 5th-grade classes studied native plants and designed their gardens to support all different species of pollinators including the monarch butterfly. The teachers worked with City staff to apply for grant funding to purchase soil, mulch, and native plants for the gardens.
Youth Monarch Conservation Program
The Youth Monarch Conservation Program is designed to introduce youth, who are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, to nature. Youth learn about the monarch butterfly life cycle and habitat restoration. After several classroom sessions, youth then apply what they have learned in the classroom to the field by participating in actual habitat restoration projects across the City of Columbia.
Missouri has retained 0.1% of its natural prairie. This means that 99.9% of our prairie has disappeared. Human activities are the greatest factor in habitat loss. As we convert natural lands into farmland and urban centers we lose the native plants that support the insects that feed the food chain. The City of Columbia has joined other local organizations in restoring native habitats including our lost prairies for the monarch butterfly and other important species.
As a Missourians for Monarchs* collaborative member the City of Columbia is working with many other organizations, cities, and individuals to create and maintain 19,000 acres of monarch habitat across Missouri. The following habitat projects contribute to the Collaborative’s goal of installing 19,000 acres of habitat.
*Visit moformonarchs.org to learn more about the Missourians for Monarchs collaborative.
3M Monarch Butterfly Habitat Restoration Project
In 2016 the 3M Corporation awarded the City of Columbia, MO a $25,000 grant to restore 15 acres of native prairie habitat to support the monarch butterfly. In partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, the City selected and prepared three different sites including a 5.5 acre area along the MKT trail, a 1 acre site at Twin Lakes Park, and an 8 acre area at Gans Creek Recreation Area.
Beginning in 2017, the City and its partners worked together to prepare the selected sites by killing off the existing vegetation and removing the dead material. Following site preparation, the City worked with Grant Elementary 2nd and 5th graders to conduct a dormant wildflower seeding in January 2018. Currently, these sites are in their second year of growth and we are beginning to see some of the native wildflowers emerge.
At completion, these monarch habitat sites will be used as demonstration sites for educational and outreach activities as well as recreational opportunities for the public.