SIRE expands monarch habitat project

By Iowa Renewable Fuels Association | June 10, 2020

Having just passed the anniversary of seeding their Monarch Fueling Station, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy recently took steps to dramatically expand the scope of the ethanol plant’s monarch habitat project for a total of 20 acres.

The 20 acres are all inside SIRE’s loop railroad track, which would otherwise be filled with grass.

“Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy is committed to finding ways to innovate and that commitment doesn’t stop with the plant itself,” said SIRE CEO Mike Jerke. “Creating habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators inside our loop track, with area we previously would have considered unusable, seemed like a great way for us to innovate the use of our land around the plant.”

SIRE began its Monarch Fueling Station in 2018 and seeded an initial 7 acres last spring. Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Habitat Establishment Coordinator Kevin Reynolds helped SIRE start their project.

“SIRE’s decision to expand their project is indicative of just how committed they are to protecting Iowa’s environment,” Reynolds said. “I have worked with several biofuel plants across Iowa now and it is exciting to see the enthusiasm they’ve had for creating and protecting this critical monarch butterfly habitat.”

Reynolds said SIRE would have seen some greenery popping up among the initial seven acres last year, but most of the growth would have occurred under the ground as the plants must develop a strong root system. He said the plant can expect the same growth pattern for the newly planted acres while the original acres should expand above the ground even more this growing season.

The Monarch Fueling Station Project was established by IRFA in partnership with the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium in December 2017. It is a program to help Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel plants establish patches of monarch habitat on plant grounds.