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Leading by doing: Chicagoland eagle scout project restores monarch habitat

Sep 11, 2017


  • Conservation Stories

This post is modified from an article originally posted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Newsroom.

Monarch butterflies now have more places to call home near Chicago thanks to a dedicated Eagle Scout. Meet Jayson Schorsch from Troop 18 of Elgin, Illinois. He’s helping to protect the monarch migration one milkweed at a time.

For his capstone project, Schorsch restored four acres of native habitat at several state protected lands in Illinois in the Forest Preserve District of Kane County and at Hawthorne Hills Nature Center.

“I’ve always loved the outdoors, and last year I learned how much the monarch population dropped within the last decade. Not very many projects in our area involve the environment and I realized that something had to be done to help with the effort in restoring monarch habitat,” said Schorsch.

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 year Schorsch returned to his project areas and was happy to see new growth thriving this summer!

Jayson Scorsch with milkweed plants from Monarch Watch in September 2016. Photo courtesy of Sarah Camson.

Seeing the big picture

Schorsch’s four-acre restoration project may seem small, but it is part of a larger effort by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, The Conservation Foundation, and 11 other regional agencies.

 “We are fully committed to increasing habitat quality for all our native species, including pollinators. Through funds provided through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, we created 18 acres of new prairie at Freeman Kane Forest Preserve and will be enhancing 50 acres of degraded prairie across multiple preserves,” said Patrick Chess, Restoration Ecologist for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.

These regional efforts contribute to the national movement to protect the monarch migration. We need all hands on deck to conserve the monarch migration, and every small part can add up to make a big difference.

After finding a place to create habitat, Schorsch had to find the right plants. He reached out to Monarch Watch, who supplied him with about 350 native milkweed seedlings.

Eagle Scouts are rare, and earning the rank of Eagle Scout is more than any one project. Recipients must be an active ‘life scout’ and prove their fitness for receiving this honor. Eagle Scouts are so rare in fact that nationally, only five percent of all scouts make it all the way from tenderfoot, the first merit badge. What makes Schorsch even more exceptional is that unlike a lot of his peers, his project contributes to saving the monarch migration.

What’s next?

Schorsch will be a senior in high school this fall and has been accepted to the Environmental Biology program at Eastern Illinois University. His goal in the future is to work in conservation to find solutions to environmental challenges. Meanwhile, Schorsch has become a trained butterfly monitor with the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network and is reporting all his sightings.

Inspired by Jayson? You can join a citizen science project or start your own monarch garden today!


The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Header photo by Jim Hudgins, USFWS.