FORT HOOD, Texas - Col. Chad R. Foster, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood, signed the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge here, March 30, making Fort Hood the first Department of Defense installation across all military branches to reaffirm its commitment to creating habitat for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.
“We are the first Army installation to sign the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge. This is a joy to do,” Foster said. “Thanks to all of you for helping to make Fort Hood a more sustainable installation for monarch butterflies.”
Joined by biologists, environmental staff and community members, Foster proclaimed March 30 as Monarch Pledge Day in a proclamation signing at Fort Hood’s pollinator sanctuary.
“We are thrilled to have Fort Hood as our first military installation,” Patrick Fitzgerald, senior director of community wildlife, NWF, said. “We know military installations have land and resources and by making a few changes are supporting monarch habitat.”
By signing the pledge, Fort Hood joins a number of other communities across the country in the initiative, including several in Texas, such as Harker Heights, Pflugerville, Round Rock, San Antonio and Arlington.
“Central Texas communities are good neighbors to us,” Foster said. “We owe them many things and one of those things is to be good stewards of the environment.”
The pledge is made each year, and mayors who sign it commit to taking at least three of 30 action items to protect the butterfly. Fort Hood has committed to 10 of the 30 action items, which include planting or maintaining a monarch and pollinator-friendly demonstration garden; initiating or supporting citizen efforts that help monitor monarch migration and health; displaying educational signage at monarch gardens and pollinator habitats; and adding or maintaining native milkweed and nectar producing plants in public community gardens.
Helping to meet its commitment to the monarch pledge is the Fort Hood Adaptive and Integrative Management Team, who maintain the installation’s pollinator sanctuary and demonstration grassland which provides habitat for monarchs at all stages of their development.
“The AIM team maintains a variety of native nectar and host plants, which are vital for the monarch’s survival, without the use of herbicides or pesticides that might cause harm not only to the monarchs but other species too,” Foster said. “The sanctuary is a space that invites visitors to learn about local flora and fauna while also discovering what they can do at their home.”
One of the initiatives the AIM team manages is the monarch tagging program. Since 2017, the team has captured, tagged and submitted data for roughly 9,600 monarch butterflies to Monarch Watch. The data also includes weight, parasite load and body condition to share observations of the health of monarchs passing through Fort Hood. Foster shared his personal experience with attendees.
“The purpose of our catch and release last fall, what I discovered, was to mark those butterflies, tag them so that other interested parties in Mexico could retrieve them, and note that this monarch made a pit stop at Fort Hood and give us a better idea about their migratory patterns,” he said.
“Texas is such a critical area for the monarch butterfly,” Fitzgerald said. “The whole state is the funnel down to Mexico and overwintering grounds.”
Chelsea Plimpton, pollinator biologist, AIM, encouraged Soldiers, families and community members to do their part to understand how they can help with conservation measures within their workplace, home or school.
“Continue to educate yourself about the importance of native plant species such as food resources for caterpillars and adult monarchs that are migrating through,” Plimpton said. “Also, consider reducing pesticide and herbicide use, and learn about citizen science opportunities with Monarch Joint Venture or the tagging effort with Monarch Watch.”
Fitzgerald also shared a few tips to help monarch conservation efforts and also challenged individuals to approach their community’s leadership to commit to the monarch pledge.
“Plant your native milkweed and native nectar plants to fuel the monarch butterflies lifecycle. Look at whatever space you have, whether a yard, balcony with container plants or community park,” he said. “You can always reach out to your commander, mayor, county commissioner or town supervisor to share information and get them interested and excited to take the pledge.”
Foster concluded the monarch proclamation ceremony discussing his two mantras as a commander.
“One is invest in people and the other is show up for what matters,” he said. “And we as a community and U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood are committed to saving the monarch butterfly and other pollinators with this signing of the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.”