SPRINGFIELD – HB685 is on its way to Governor Rauner’s desk today after passing the Senate. Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and Representative Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) sponsored the legislation, which provides that counties and municipalities may not classify milkweed as a noxious or exotic weed. The bill passed the House back in March.
Over the last 20 years monarchs have seen a precipitous 80 to 90 percent decline in population due to environmental threats, including a drastic reduction in native milkweed, the only source of food for monarch larvae. Of the twenty-three species of milkweeds that are native to Illinois, five are listed as endangered, and one is listed as threatened on the federal endangered and threatened species list.
Lonnie Morris, an Illinois Sierra Club volunteer and longtime advocate for monarchs, first proposed the idea for HB685. “Monarch’s are currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act,” Morris explained. “Illinois designated milkweed as our state wildflower earlier this year to raise awareness of its importance as monarch habitat. Now, it only makes sense that we back that up by making sure everyone who wants to plant milkweed is able to.”
In addition to the Illinois Sierra Club, the Illinois Environmental Council and Prairie Rivers Network supported HB685 in an effort to increase monarch butterfly habitat in Illinois. Each May, monarchs make their way through Illinois during their 1,500 mile migration from Mexico to Canada. But this trip is becoming increasingly perilous due to massive habitat loss, climate change, and unintentional exposure to insecticides and herbicides.
“Monarchs were named Illinois’ State Insect because of our unique relationship with the species,” said State Senator Melinda Bush. “Every year, millions of these butterflies rely on habitat in Illinois, and it’s our responsibility to protect it.”
Representative Moeller introduced HB685 in response to several communities designated milkweed as a noxious or exotic weed. “Milkweeds are a native plant species to Illinois and at a time when pollinator habitat is being seriously threatened, it’s vital that we plant more milkweed – not ban it.”
In addition to being essential for the survival of native plants and animal, it’s estimated that more than 150 crop plants require pollinators, making them essential for our food system. In total, pollinators provide $10 billion in economic value annually in the United States.