The Monarch Butterfly Fields
must be forever protected
We cannot allow the ADM to mow down the Monarch fields this summer as it did last June
By Irwin Rapoport
June 1, 2023
Spring has sprung, and the early spring flowers are blooming and bursting with colour, offering a glimpse of what we can expect when summer arrives in full.
This also means that the over 6,000 milkweed plants and other diverse flora essential to Monarch butterflies and other insects, various pollinators, birds, and many mammals shall arise and create a spectacular meadow landscape at the 20-hectare Monarch Fields within the Technoparc Wetlands and wilderness area.
The Eastern Monarch, an officially endangered species of butterfly, migrates between Mexico and southern Canada and back on an annual basis, including the northernmost point that includes the Greater Montreal Area (GMA). Last year, in late June, the Aéroport de Montreal (ADM) mowed down all the vegetation just as the colourful insects were returning and beginning to lay eggs.
The survival of these eggs and their transformation from caterpillars to butterflies was crucial as this is the generation that migrates back to Mexico to spend the winter in the mountain forests before mating to lay eggs for the next generation to resume the circular journey that has taken place for thousands of years.
Last year, in late June, the Aéroport de Montreal (ADM) mowed down all the vegetation just as the colourful insects were returning and beginning to lay eggs.
The journey from Mexico to Southern Canada is no easy task as it requires four generations of Monarchs to reach Montreal. Thus each butterfly that successfully arrives in the GMA, including the Monarch Fields, is a survivor of a passage replete with hazards and fewer areas where they can find milkweed plants to lay their eggs, for the caterpillars to feed on to acquire the poison which protects them from predators, and where the pupae transform from caterpillars to butterflies.
It is a remarkable feat and unique in the annals of nature, similar to the migration of the Arctic Terns, a species of shorebird that travels back and forth between the Arctic and Antarctic regions annually.
We don’t know how many Monarchs were lost due to the ADM’s actions but we can safely estimate that it was considerable, and for the Monarchs, each individual counts. The mowing operation, as noted, also impacted many species of birds, mammals, and insects that depend on the thriving meadow ecosystem that is the Monarch Fields.
Birds feed on insects that live in the meadow, native plants blossom and release seeds that spread to other parts of the island, and insects depend upon the plants to secure nectar and feed on the leaves and fibre, as well as lay their eggs on plants and in the ground. This is a perfect example of nature working in symmetry for the benefit of so many species.
‘The mowing operation… also impacted many species of birds, mammals, and insects that depend on the thriving meadow ecosystem that is the Monarch Fields.’
The mowing operation horrified environmentalists and environmental groups, citizens keen on protecting the natural spaces and biodiversity, and numerous municipalities and boroughs in the City of Montreal. Its officials were fully aware of the impacts it would cause.
This led to the City of Côte Saint-Luc and the Borough of Saint-Laurent to prepare a resolution, which was supported by over twenty municipal councils “Requesting the Federal Government Collaborate with the Cities of Montreal and Dorval to Preserve and Protect Federal Lands North of Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International Airport, in the Areas Known as the Technoparc and Golf Dorval.”
Should a nature park be established and it must be created as soon as possible, it would cover 215 hectares and be a jewel in the GMA. The area is already the premier bird-watching destination on the island, attracting around 215 species of birds.
When I last visited the Technoparc wilderness area, I saw a pair of Peregrine falcons, five other species of raptors, and many varieties of ducks and songbirds. I added at least thirty birds to my checklist at the back of my Peterson Guide: Eastern Birds. It was a thrilling outing etched in my memory. I also glimpsed many Monarchs that morning – a hopeful sign, as I had not seen any in NDG that summer.
The ADM is keen to develop its portion of the Technoparc wilderness area and, at one point, was determined to see a factory manufacturing PPE for COVID constructed on the Monarch Fields site. This proposal was severely criticized and rallied the environmental community to fight back. Fortunately, public pressure was such that the project was shelved by the company that wanted to set up shop.
‘I fear that we shall witness a repeat performance by the ADM. We cannot, in good conscience, permit that to occur under our watch.’
With the anniversary of the mowing operation approaching, I, and others, fear the ADM may repeat the action, which angered so many Montrealers. This cannot be allowed to happen again. Thus, we need to put the ADM on notice that it must not touch a single inch of the Monarch Fields during the spring and summer, and if it is necessary to mow the field, to do so in October earliest.
We also need assurances from the federal government, including Environment Minister Steven Guilbault, that the field will be left intact this summer and for future summers. To accomplish this, we can reach out to Guilbeault by email at Steven.Guilbeault@parl.gc.ca
I would also suggest sending emails to Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Saint-Laurent Borough Mayor Alan DeSouza at email@example.com, asking them to publicly insist the ADM leave the Monarch Fields alone and for Guilbeault to issue a cease-and-desist order regarding mowing operations or any other action by the ADM to harm biodiversity on the site.
Time is of the essence, as the ADM has shown little concern for the Fields and, based on its past actions, seems to view that by eliminating biodiversity from the Technoparc wilderness area, it will remove the need to protect this crucial natural area. I fear that we shall witness a repeat performance by the ADM. We cannot, in good conscience, permit that to occur under our watch.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of WestmountMag.ca or its publishers.
Irwin Rapoport is a freelance journalist with Bachelor degrees in History and Political Science from Concordia University.