A new program seeks restoration of key prairie habitat in Northwest Missouri for monarch butterflies.

The Environmental Defense Fund and Roeslein Alternative Energy are working with Smithfield Foods on the project. Monarchs have experienced a 95 percent population decline since the 1980s and could be listed as a threatened species in June 2019. The butterfly is undergoing what is believed to be its largest migration in 10 years.

“We’re excited about the potential of this unique partnership to support recovery of the beloved monarch butterfly and other pollinators that rely on healthy prairie habitat,” said David Wolfe, the defense fund’s director of conservation strategies.

“The economic savings come from the benefits prairies have for helping hold on water and nitrogen in the soil and reducing potential waste,” said David Wolfe, the fund’s director of conservation strategies.

Smithfield, which owns a series of hog confinement operations in north Missouri, contributed $300,000 to fund the planting of native grasses and monarch-friendly native milkweed species on 1,000 acres of land on and surrounding its property in the region.

Roeslein is assisting Smithfield with an effort to transform hog manure into renewable natural gas and is considering prairie grass as an alternative feedstock, particularly during the winter.

The partners called the project a “compelling ecological and financial model for the growth and management of native prairie across the agricultural landscape. Ultimately, the unlikely collaborators are working to achieve a more resilient and ecologically diverse agricultural landscape.”

Ray Scherer can be reached

at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.