The Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency has announced an effort to create habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators in its eight-member communities. It's estimated the monarch population has diminished by as much as 90 percent in some parts of the United States.

The Department of Agriculture is in the midst of a $4 million campaign in 10 states to save the monarch butterfly. Recently, the Illinois legislature passed a bill creating a butterfly-themed license plate with the money going toward the planting of milkweed on highway medians in an effort to save the monarch.

SMMPA plans to help its member municipal utilities establish 29 habitat sites in 14 communities. These sites will be about 200-400 square feet and consist of milkweed plants along with other flowering nectar plants.

Local community groups along with school groups and utility employees will help in the planting and maintenance of the sites. SMMPA hopes to add additional sites in the fall and in 2017.

Pollinators such as bees and butterflies are a critical component of 30-40 percent of the food supply. Loss of habitat is the major factor in the decline of pollinator populations.