CHICAGO (CBS) — When Jayson Schorsch was doing research for his Eagle Scout capstone project, he knew he wanted to do something to help the environment.
“I’ve always been interested in the animals, the plants and the environment,” he said.
So he decided he wanted to help the declining monarch butterfly population.
“I’ve been looking at how the butterflies have been declining due to the harsh winters in Mexico while in hibernation as well as the fact the habitat loss here in the U.S.”
He said he contacted Kane County about land where he could plant milkweed.
“I picked places near where I live and Kane County Forest Preserve offered a few so I decided to contact them to see about planting milkweed at a couple of their Forest Preserves,” Schorsch said.
The Elgin senior restored four acres of native habitat at several state protected lands in Illinois, including the Burnidge Forest Preserve, in Elgin and the Freeman Kame Nature Preserve Area in Gilberts. Both are part of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County. A portion of Schorsch’s project is also within the Hawthorne Hills Nature Center in Elgin, Illinois.
“It’s just sad to see such a beautiful insect disappearing from our planet with no one taking notice. Not to mention that the monarch is our state insect here in Illinois,” Schorsch continued.
Schorsch said that the most rewarding aspect of this project is that he knows that he will make an impact helping the monarchs make a comeback, no matter how small it may be. This past spring, Schorsch returned to his project areas in the preserves and saw new growth returning after the first winter. Schorsch’s plantings are even more robust now that summer temperatures have arrived. The plants are well over two feet tall.
“When I came back in the Spring after planting the milkweed, I noticed lots growing.”
Schorsch’s four-acre restoration project may seem small, but it is part of a much larger effort by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, The Conservation Foundation, and 11 other regional agencies that all fold into a nationwide conservation movement through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“My hope is that by doing this project, I could inspire other people to plant milkweed in their own backyards or carry out projects like this themselves. Planting more seeds and things in prairies.”
Schorsch will be a senior in high school this fall and has applied to the Environmental Biology program at Eastern Illinois University for the fall of 2018. His goal in the future is to work in the field of conservation to find solutions to environmental challenges. In the meantime, Schorsch has become a trained butterfly monitor with the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network and has been reporting all his sightings.