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OPPD "Prairie in Progress" helping monarch butterflies

Posted at 3:57 PM, Sep 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-17 17:28:00-04

In an effort to cut down on maintenance costs, Omaha Public Power District decided to convert some of its land back to its natural prairie state. When the Save Our Monarchs foundation heard what OPPD wanted to do, they reached out to see if a partnership could work for everyone's interests.

In their "Corridors for Pollinators" program, the Save Our Monarchs foundation works with utility companies to specifically create and convert habitats in their right of ways, explains Randall Gilbert, program director for Save Our Monarchs foundation.

"All those strips you see with transmission lines or pipelines, that we always look at and they always look kinda scrubby and we're not sure why. We try to convert those into habitats for monarchs and other pollinators," Gilbert says.

OPPD Environmental and Regulatory Affairs administrator Emily Muth thought the pairing would be beneficial for all parties involved.

"By reestablishing the native habitat that was once here we could do something that was beneficial to the monarch butterfly and also other pollinators that we hear so much about as well as reduce long term maintenance cost for the district," Muth says.

It's a work in progress, but OPPD Facilities, Operations, and Maintenance supervisor Jim Fitzsimmons says there is a lot of land they will be able to convert.

"We've identified about 305 acres at this time that we could convert into prairie as well as plantings of the pollinators for saving the monarch butterflies," Fitzsimmons adds.

Instead of being mowed several times a year, OPPD will mow the prairie areas every three to five years. And they are already seeing an improvement at their Nebraska City location. 

"So last year that would have been mowed, you wouldn't have had any monarchs this year. we have seen about 20 out there just last week. so yeah, that's a big difference," Gilbert explains.

In addition to helping the monarchs, creating a natural habitat instead of regularly mowing can reduce maintenance cost by about 30 to 50 percent. OPPD says they are currently saving $7,600 a year. And if you want to help save the monarchs, too, planting milkweed and flowering plants in your own yard is a great start.