ND farmers upset about milkweed seed distribution

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) North Dakota Game and Fish partnered with the Parks and Recreation Department in a new initiative to aid monarch butterfly re-population, but not everyone is happy with this new plan.

Some farmers say they're worried this initiative might pose health risks to their livestock.

According to Game and Fish, the monarch butterfly population has decreased by 90% in the past 20 years.

To combat this, Game and Fish is funding Parks and Recs to give state park annual pass holders mixed seed packets, including milkweed seeds, in hopes of increasing pollinator habitats across the state.

"Milkweed is the only kind of species that monarchs will eat and so here in the United States, the one way that we can help the monarch is by providing milkweed and having nectar resources on the ground for them," explains Elisha Mueller, conservation biologist with Game and Fish.

While this initiative can be helpful to monarchs, some farmers, like Greg Hanson, Board Member on the Renville County Weed Board are concerned that milkweed will do more harm than good for their animals.

"Farmers and Ranchers work every day, all summer long and fall long to control noxious weeds and you're going to give packets of seeds out to people to just go out and throw around in the air and blow into the wind."

According to Beth Burdolski, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent for NDSU extension in Burleigh County, milkweed is not considered noxious on the state level, but it is still listed as such in some North Dakota counties.

Burdolski says she can see both sides of the issue.

"We do need to increase our acres for pollinator habitat but this might not be the best way to go about it."

The plant is poisonous to livestock if consumed in large quantities, but animals will only choose milkweed as a food source if no other option is available, Burdolski says.