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A white, black and yellow caterpillar.
Information icon Monarch caterpillar. Photo by Edward K. Boggess, USFWS.

Partnership conserves monarch butterflies across four mountain counties

Asheville, North Carolina — As part of a national effort to stave the decline of monarch butterflies, Buncombe, Madison, Yancey, and Mitchell counties now have 13 new butterfly gardens, many installed by area students.

Local organizations Monarch Rescue and Toe River Watershed Partnership have spear-headed the effort using a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Eight schools across Mitchell, Yancey, Madison and Buncombe counties have new pollinator gardens, as well as Asheville’s Bartlett Arms and Altamont apartments, Renaissance Asheville Hotel, Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, and the Black Mountain Home for Children. The partnership is also working closely with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to establish habitat on selected conservation easements.

“Loss of milkweed habitat is the heart of the problem and is the reason we are seeing such a dramatic decline in the monarch butterfly population,” said Nina Veteto, founder of Monarch Rescue. “With these plantings, we’re working to ensure monarchs have what they need to thrive in western North Carolina.”

There are two monarch populations in the United States – western and eastern. Eastern monarchs overwinter at a single location in Mexico, allowing researchers to keep close tabs on population size, which has declined over the past twenty years. The Fish and Wildlife Service has been asked to place the monarch on the federal endangered species list as a threatened species. While that decision is pending, the Service is working nation-wide to support local efforts to install butterfly gardens. The gardens help create habitat for the monarch butterfly by providing several types of native milkweed, the only plant the monarch will lay its eggs on, as well as other nectar sources for the butterflies and other pollinators.

“Planting these gardens, which include milkweed, is one of the easiest, most straight-forward things anyone can do for monarchs,” explained Starli McDowell of Toe River Valley Partnership. “We’ve literally had second grade students, trowel in hand, helping conserve these butterflies.”

The gardens will be registered as official “Monarch Waystations” with the non-profit Monarch Watch and will also become a part of the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail, an initiative set forth by the former first lady, to create a string of butterfly gardens from Plains, Georgia to Washington, DC.

Monarch Rescue will also provide educational programming to participating schools this coming September as the migration makes its way through western North Carolina. Students will learn about the life cycle of the monarch, its migration and learn to tag and release classroom-raised butterflies.

Monarch Rescue

A local non-profit organization whose main goals are to establish monarch/pollinator habitat here in Western North Carolina and educate the public about the plight of the monarch butterfly. Monarch Rescue offers a 4-week monarch butterfly program in local schools during the month of September.

Toe River Watershed Partnership

A local partnership working with local, regional, state and national partners for the sake of our region’s precious waterways and for the future of the communities that depend on them.


  • Anita Goetz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, (828) 258-3939, ext. 228,

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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