Each day, Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel plants produce more clean biofuels than any other state in the country. Now, those same plants will begin protecting the state’s environment in a new way.
On Dec. 26, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association launched the Monarch Fueling Station Project to help ethanol and biodiesel producers across the state establish monarch butterfly habitats on green spaces surrounding biofuel plants.
“Iowa’s biofuels producers take pride in creating clean, alternative fuels that are better for our environment and add value to agricultural commodities,” says IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “A project to protect these beautiful pollinators that are so critical to Iowa agriculture and the natural environment seemed like a perfect fit.”
Patches of monarch habitat
Because of their migratory patterns, monarchs need small patches of habitat throughout the state. “Even a 10th of an acre can make a difference,” Shaw says. “Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel plants are scattered across Iowa and also tend to have a lot of green space on their properties — making them excellent partners for this effort.”
Kevin Reynolds, who has over 30 years of experience in environmental conservation, will serve as the project’s habitat establishment coordinator. He will assist biofuel producers in using the best practices to convert grassy areas into monarch fueling stations that contain vital milkweed plants and other wildflowers that support the monarch population.
“Having recently retired from a 36-year career working to protect Iowa’s soil and water, I’m excited to put my experience and expertise to use protecting a new aspect of Iowa’s natural environment,” Reynolds says. “This project will help preserve pollinators for the sake of Iowa agriculture and environmental diversity for generations to come.”
Statewide strategy to protect monarchs
As part of the project, IRFA has joined the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, an organization that is implementing a statewide strategy to protect the monarch butterfly in Iowa.
“This new effort fits well into the Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy to foster habitat improvements in rural landscapes, and especially where habitat coincides with agricultural production,” says Steve Bradbury, professor of entomology at Iowa State University and one of the leaders of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, which has over 30 partnering organizations. “We believe the IRFA-established habitats will help model how we make progress through voluntary, statewide efforts based on the best available science.”
Lincolnway first ethanol plant in project
Lincolnway Energy in Nevada is the first IRFA member to establish a monarch fueling station. In recent weeks, the first steps were taken on a 2-acre plot to prepare the fueling station for seeding in the spring.
“It’s exciting to be the first ethanol plant in Iowa to launch a project like this,” says Eric Hakmiller, CEO of Lincolnway Energy. “Pollinators like the monarch butterfly are an important part of Iowa's agriculture landscape. Anything we can do to protect their population is worth our time and effort.”
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association represents the state’s liquid renewable fuels industry and works to foster its growth. Iowa is the nation’s leader in renewable fuel production with 43 ethanol refineries capable of producing 4 billion gallons annually — including nearly 55 million gallons of annual cellulosic ethanol production capacity — and 12 biodiesel facilities with capacity to produce over 380 million gallons annually.
Source: Iowa Renewable Fuels Association