March 21, 2014, by Gary Paul Nabhan
For much of the last two centuries, America’s farmers passionately pursued and diligently documented the variety of butterflies in their agricultural landscapes. They were also excellent stewards of monarchs and other butterfly species, some of which are now suffering dramatic declines. According to author and historian William Leach, many farmers even made room for them in their orchards, fields, pastures, and hedges:
Family farms…did perhaps more than any other landscape to convert Americans into butterfly lovers. Farms were distributed throughout the country, and while they sacrificed virgin forests and ecosystems in the short term, they contributed over the longer term to nature’s vitality. Their distinguishing features were not just plowed fields or barns or silos but also ponds, woodlots, hedgerows, stone walls, open fields along roadsides, and meadows by streams or riverbeds for grazing cattle, all created for human purposes but also serving as likely habitats and hideouts for animals.