Monarch butterflies and other pollinator species need their habitat to be preserved and expanded.

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Monarch butterflies and other pollinator species need their habitat to be preserved and expanded.

(Gregory Bull | AP photo)

This Aug. 19, 2015, photo, shows a monarch butterfly in Vista, Calif. The number of western monarch butterflies wintering along the California coast has plummeted to a new record low, putting the orange-and-black insects closer to extinction, researchers announced Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.

Salt Lake City is growing rapidly. Much of our focus is on building homes and livable communities for humans. We have seen investment in more vertical development, and in city parks that enhance and support quality of life. But soccer fields are not nature, and we need to be thinking equally about preserving and expanding “homes” and habitat for other living things. We must also invest in the “messy-looking” natural areas as well.

The world has witnessed a drastic decline in our pollinator species, including the monarch butterfly, whose western population across North America has dropped more than 80% in 30 years. One key reason for that decline is loss of breeding and overwintering habitat. Monarchs rely on a single species of plant, milkweed, for survival. Habitat that used to be plentiful decades ago no longer exists, as agricultural fields have become subdivisions and commercial properties.

The monarch is the only insect that carries out a two-way migration, traveling up to 3,000 miles to reach overwintering habitat in Mexico or California. They clump together in pine trees to stay warm, living off bodyfat, and in spring migrate back to Texas, Arizona and inland California to find breeding habitat, creating the first generation of the new season. With the smaller western population collapsing at a faster rate, Utahns are at risk for not enjoying monarchs here at all.

Over the past three years, Salt…