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Renewable fuels group launches conservation project

Monte Shaw (left), Kevin Reynolds (middle), and Eric Hakmiller (right) stand on Lincolnway Energy’s Monarch Fueling Station in front of Lincolnway Energy. Photo courtesy of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA).

Each day, Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel plants produce more clean biofuels than any other state in the country. Now, those same plants will begin protecting the state’s environment in a whole new way.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) launched the Monarch Fueling Station Project to help ethanol and biodiesel producers across the state establish monarch butterfly habitats on green spaces surrounding biofuels plants, Tuesday.

“Iowa’s biofuels producers take pride in creating clean, alternative fuels that are better for our environment and add value to agricultural commodities,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “A project to protect these beautiful pollinators that are so critical to Iowa agriculture and the natural environment seemed like a perfect fit.”

Kevin Reynolds, who has over 30 years of experience in environmental conservation, will serve as the project’s Habitat Establishment Coordinator. He will assist biofuels producers in the best practices to convert grassy areas into monarch fueling stations that contain vital milkweed plants and other wildflowers that support the monarch population.

“Having recently retired from a 36-year career working to protect Iowa’s soil and water, I’m excited to put my experience and expertise to use protecting a new aspect of Iowa’s natural environment,” Reynolds said. “This project will help preserve pollinators for the sake of Iowa agriculture and environmental diversity for generations to come.”

As part of the project, IRFA has joined the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, an organization that is implementing a statewide strategy to protect the monarch butterfly in Iowa.

“This new effort fits well into the Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy to foster habitat improvements in rural landscapes, and especially where habitat coincides with agricultural production,” said Steve Bradbury, professor of entomology at Iowa State University and one of the leaders of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, which has over 30 partnering organizations. “We believe the IRFA-established habitats will help model how we make progress through voluntary, statewide efforts based on the best available science.”

Lincolnway Energy in Nevada is the first IRFA member to establish a monarch fueling station. In recent weeks, the first steps were taken on a two-acre plot to prepare the fueling station for seeding in the spring.

“It’s exciting to be the first ethanol plant in Iowa to launch a project like this,” said Eric Hakmiller, CEO of Lincolnway Energy. “Pollinators like the monarch butterfly are an important part of Iowa’s agriculture landscape. Anything we can do to protect their population is worth our time and effort.”