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Source: ISTOCK

'Monarchs in the Rough' Program Has Helped More Than 300 Golf Courses Provide Butterfly Habitats

By Sophie Hirsh

It's hard to score a membership at certain elite golf clubs — but if you're a monarch butterfly, you might be able to get in for free. In January 2018, Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund partnered to launch Monarchs in the Rough, a program that guides golf courses in planting monarch butterfly habitats in out-of-play areas along the course. To see how Monarchs in the Rough has grown since it was introduced, Green Matters spoke with the Marcus Gray, the program manager of Monarchs in the Rough.

First, here's some background on the project and what inspired it. Over the past 20 years, the monarch butterfly's population has declined by about 90 percent, as noted on the Monarchs in the Rough website. The program was founded to help prevent the monarch butterfly population from declining further by building habitats for them on golf courses across North America. Monarchs in the Rough provides participating golf courses with information and support to guide them in planting monarch habitats on their courses. For example, golf courses are encouraged to plant milkweed (a necessary source of food for monarch caterpillars), plant wildflowers (which are a source of nectar for butterflies), consider monarch migration when scheduling lawn mowing, and abstain from the use of pesticides.

So, why did Monarchs in the Rough choose to target golf courses with this initiative? As explained on the program's website, about 2.5 million acres of U.S. land are golf courses, 100,000 of which Audubon International believes have the potential to become butterfly habitats. The website explained that because golf courses own so much land, they are in an exceptional position to help with the conservation of butterflies, other wildlife, and nature.