Habitat


Here’s another chance to help pollinators!

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and several local groups, including Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, have planned a Habitat Planting for the Park and Ride Lot near the intersection of Rts. 50 and 340 in Clarke County on Thursday, September 22.

There will be 2,500 native plants that need to be put in the ground, including milkweed and at least 15 other species, and we’d be thrilled to have your help for any or all of the time that day. The planting is scheduled to go from 10 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m.

Monarch butterfly

More native plants help more pollinators

Please wear sturdy shoes, bring a trowel if you have one, and pack a lunch if you can stay long. There will be water available and there are several convenience stores nearby.

For more information contact Steve Carroll at sbc3p@eservices.virginia.edu

RAIN DATE: The decision to go ahead or not will be made the day before. In case of cancellation the rain date is Tuesday, September 27, 10 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m.

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It is August already so we are beginning to get ready for the fall Native Plant Sale on Saturday September 10, which will be here before you know it!

Once again we will have the gorgeous, pesticide-free plants from Nature By DesignHill House Farm & Nursery and Watermark Woods. You can visit the nurseries’ websites to see what they have in stock and, if you like, order in advance so you’ll know the plants will be there when you arrive.

Fun at the native plant sale

The plant sale is always fun!
Photo by S.A. Ferguson

In addition, we will again feature the very popular used books sale. If you have duplicate copies of nature books or ones you’d like to donate – preferably nature books with a local focus – please bring them by our office in the Carriage Museum at Morven Park (GPS location: 17171 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg) on any Saturday this month between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. We will be closed Labor Day weekend.

The plant sale will again be at the main parking lot at Morven Park from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. You can read more about it here.

 

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With the very hot weather upon us, this is a good time for some evening outdoor activity. Celebrating National Moth Week might just be the ticket!

National Moth Week takes place the last week of July each year – or has done since its inception five years ago. The Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission (FEBEC) in New Jersey, which coordinates the event globally, encourages everyone to go out and see what moths you can identify and contribute the data as a citizen scientist.

Polyphemous moth

Polyphemous moth. Photo by Nicole Hamilton

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy will mark the week with a program this Friday evening, 7-10 p.m. at the Winmill Carriage Museum at Morven Park. Entomologist David Adamski has been studying moths for many years, part of it as a researcher with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He’ll not only talk about this species but take participants outside to see what moths show up when he turns on his blacklight! You can find out more about it and sign up for the free program here.

It’s estimated there are more than 150,000 species of moths, which means there are lots and lots of moths large and small and with beautiful patterns for you and your family to discover.

The National Moth Week website  has a lot of information, including book and field guide recommendations, resources for children and more.

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As we all know, it’s going to take a lot of work by all of us to restore the pollinator populations, including honey bees and Monarch butterflies, to healthy levels. Weather, pesticides, disease, habitat loss are contributing factors and we can’t control all of it but we need to do what we can.

The current administration has spoken out before about the need for federal government agencies to work together to help. Today, the administration released the Pollinator Partnership Action Plan (PPAP), which encourages and gives examples of possible partnerships as well as suggestions that you can follow on farms and in your yards and gardens.

Bruce Rodan, Assistant Director for Environmental Health for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said “As the President made clear, ultimate success can only be achieved through an all-hands-on-deck approach to create the necessary long-term change and fully internalize the value of these creatures to our well-being.” You can read his comments here.

The PPAP examples range from research projects with state governments to making land available to bee keepers and providing tax benefits to landowners who help apiaries. Another project teams a federal agency with the Xerces Society and private seed companies to test native milkweed for commercial production. Milkweed is, of course, essential to the lifecycle of the Monarch as it’s the only plant the butterfly lays its eggs on and that the caterpillars eat.

Locally, as you may know, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on modifying mowing practices and teamed up with VDOT and Dominion Power to plant waystations at rest stops in the commonwealth.

Elswhere, the PPAP says, the Federal Highway Administration and six states in the Mid- and Southwest have informally designated the 1,500-mile I-35 as the Monarch Highway for migrating butterflies.

The report suggests – and we strongly support – planting more native pollinator plants and not using pesticides. Native plants support a greater variety of species in the local environment and are essential to their life cycle.

So take a few minutes to read the report, talk about the ideas, and do what you can. Make a difference.

monarch1-300Spring_Plant_sale2springplantsale3

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On April 26 Loudoun County’s Planning Commission voted, 6 to 2, to recommend a 160,000-square-foot, 35-foot-high building on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain in Western Loudoun. This was done with little public notice or input and it is going before the Board of Supervisors tonight, May 19, at 6:30 p.m.Many people are rallying against this outrageous proposal for a lot of different reasons. The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is opposed to it due to the impact it will have on what is probably Loudoun County’s richest area biologically because of the extensive and diverse wildlife habitats that exist there. Short Hill Mountain serves as the eastern border of the Between the Hills Valley while the Blue Ridge Mountains is its western border. The valley and the ridges that border it are heavily forested, offering unique and connected habitat that is becoming more and more rare in Loudoun County. It has farm fields and some of the cleanest streams in all of Loudoun County. Harpers Ferry National Park borders it on the north and northwest where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet and all of those factors combine to make this valley rich with wildlife. Short Hill Mountain is not only a major migration route for birds of prey in the fall, large numbers of other birds such as the Cerulean Warbler also migrate along the ridge in both the spring and fall. A state threatened turtle, the Wood Turtle, lives in the valley while amphibians that have disappeared in other parts of the county, are still plentiful in the many healthy vernal pools which can be find in the valley. Many species of birds that live and nest in the valley have seen their numbers plummet elsewhere but are, for now, still holding out in this area. As shown by our annual butterfly count, more species of butterflies thrive here than anywhere else in the county.There will probably be backup emergency generators at this facility which will need to be tested on a regular basis. Noise pollution in the valley is likely to be more extensive than it would be in an open space and because this building is to be built on the ridge, it will echo up and down the valley and beyond.

This facility makes no sense in such a wonderful place. Furthermore, we are outraged that something with as negative impact as this facility will have is being slipped through the planning process without giving the public any real opportunity to study it especially since there is no need for it to be rushed. To protect this area we are asking the Board of Supervisors to deny this application outright.

Joe Coleman

Vice President

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy

 

Below is an Action Alert from the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition on the issue, including a memo from LCPCC Chair Al Van Huyck to the Board of Supervisors. You can also read the memo and see the image referred to here.

 

The Loudoun County Planning Commission’s 6-2 vote on April 26 to approve the commission permit for a 160,000-square-foot, 35-foot-high building on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain in Western Loudoun, with little public notice or input, next goes before the Board of Supervisors at its May 19 meeting in Leesburg.The building, if constructed, will have a huge impact on the rural area’s viewshed (see image below; areas shaded in gold show where building will be visible from), with far-reaching implications for the area’s scenic and rural character.It is vital that members of the Board of Supervisors hear citizens’ concerns about this proposal. 

What you can do:

• Become informed about the proposal. There are many unanswered questions about what the facility actually will be—among them whether it in fact constitutes a permitted use under the zoning ordinance, and who will own and operate it upon completion. Noise, light, traffic, power and water needs for a facility operating 24 hours a day with 60 employees working three shifts—these impacts have not been assessed. Read more here.

• Email Supervisors and speak at the BOS meeting this Thursday, May 19 (speaking slots for the 6:30 p.m. period are available). Contact the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors at 703-777-0200 to sign up to speak. Click here for supervisor emails. Catoctin District Supervisor Geary Higgins has said he does “not support the current application as it currently stands.” Supervisors Higgins and Tony Buffington (Blue Ridge) need to hear more from their constituents about citizens’ concerns.• Attend the community meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 23, hosted by the project applicant, Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group Inc. (a private contractor which builds facilities but does not own or operate them), to discuss expansion of the facility at the Lovettsville Game Association building at 16 South Berlin Turnpike, in Lovettsville.

• Notify friends, neighbors, your organization’s membership list, and rural business owners in Loudoun about this precedent-setting intrusion into rural Loudoun, with its irreplaceable scenic assets—that so many of its rural businesses rely upon for their prosperity.

• Share this email and the LCPCC Facebook page link.

 

Below is a message from LCPCC Chair Al Van Huyck to the applicant and the Board of Supervisors. You also can download a PDF of the document here.

 

TO            : The Loudoun Board of Supervisors

FROM     : Al Van Huyck

DATE       : May 4, 2016

SUBJECT:  UNANSWERED QUESTIONS REGARDING CMPT-2016-0001; AT&T SHORT HILL

 

The Planning Commission approved the Commission Permit for A&T Short Hill Mountain at their meeting on April 26, 2016.  The Board of Supervisors now has 60 days to either to approve or deny the Commission Permit as an administrative decision without a public hearing.

 

The proposed facility is for a 160,000 square foot structure, 35 feet high and 433 feet long, with eight back-up generators, and eleven air coolers.

 

The following are unanswered questions or pending issues which should be clarified before the Board of Supervisors takes action.

  1. The Zoning Administrator has determined that the application is for an expansion of a “Utility Substation, Transmission” which is a permitted use.However, early Staff reviews and several outside experts suggest that this use is for a “Data Center” which is not a permitted use.The County’s Communications Commission should be asked to verify the Zoning Administrator’s decision.
  2. Is this facility to be a private commercial use or is there a compelling Federal Government need for this facility?The applicant should be required to state whether or not it will be a private commercial use or will it be restricted to Federal Government use.
  3. The applicant is Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group Inc. (a private contractor which builds facilities but does not own or operate them) and is not a public utility.Can a contractor be issued a Commission Permit or only the utility owner of the site? The Parsons Company should justify why they are the applicant, and should be required to state their proposed end use for the Commission Permit.
  4. If AT&T is to be the end user, they should be required to state that they will operate the facility and not sell or lease it to others as a speculative venture.A statement from AT&T should be required as to their commitment to the facility’s use.
  5. Has AT&T abandoned use of the existing facility? There is some evidence that there is no current activity at the site.A statement from AT&T should be required as to the current use of the existing facility on the Short Hill Mountain.
  6. There is a great need for broadband in rural Loudoun.Will Loudoun residents obtain any benefits from this facility if built?
  7. If the Zoning Administrator’s decision stands will any current transmission substation anywhere in Loudoun County be allowed to receive a Commission Permit to be able to massively expand based on this precedent.There are a large number of substations throughout Loudoun County east and west.  If this interpretation is allowed to stand will it set a precedent in future cases?  The Zoning Administrator should be required to clarify this possible situation.
  8. A Commission Permit’s test is “whether the general location, character, and extent of the proposed use are in substantial accord with the Comprehensive Plan.”The Staff report states that it is based only on the fact it is an “expansion of an existing “Utility Substation, Transmission” which is a permitted use in the Zoning Ordinance.The Staff should be required to explain that the overall reading of the Comprehensive Plan would not justify this facility on the ridge line of the Short Hill Mountain.

VIEWSHED ANALYSIS

The View Shed analysis included in the application is totally inadequate when compared to a privately generated GIS viewshed analysis.The Staff Report notes the structure will be visible from the valley roads. However, a private analysis indicates the structure will be visible over a wide area of northwest Loudoun from the Catoctin Mountains to the Short Hill Mountain in the east and for miles along the Appalachian Trail and down the valley to below Hillsboro on the west.As such the potential negative impact on many rural economy businesses and residents needs to be considered.The County GIS Department should be asked to conduct an official analysis of the view shed impact of the structure located on the ridge line of the Short Hill Mountains.

 

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS REGARDING MITIGATION OF IMPACT

 

The application is vague on important issues which can affect the impact of the facility.  If a Commission Permit is approved then there is only approval of the Site Plan left for discussion, and only existing County regulations can be applied.  Any special mitigating commitments must be written into the Plat Plan prior to the approval of the Commission Permit.  The applicant should be required to make binding commitments regarding the following issues.

  1. What will be the power requirement needed to service the facilities?The applicant orally stated they will upgrade the power source, but not increase the height of the poles carrying power to the site or seek a new line right of way.However, will there be any changes required in obtaining this power off-site?The power requirements should be put in writing on the Plat.
  2. The applicant states they will observe the County’s noise regulations. The noise generated at the top of the Short Hill Mountain, even if within County limits, will carry far and wide in the clear, quiet air of rural Loudoun.The applicant should be required to provide a noise suppression plan particularly because of the difficulty of enforcing the County’s noise regulations.
  3. The applicant states they will attempt to minimize security lighting, but there is no specific information on how this will be done.Lights high on the mountain will be seen over a wide area.The applicant should be required to specify exactly what the lighting requirements will be and how they intend to mitigate the light trespass.
  4. The applicant states they will use existing wells to supply the water needed for the facility.In Loudoun, if a neighbor’s well runs dry because of a well on another property, there is no recourse.The applicant should be required to produce a hydro study which states the expected water requirements of the facility, the flow of the existing wells, the ground water recharge levels expected, and commit to a water supply management plan.
  5. The applicant states there will be no impact on the eco-system on the mountain.However, the scale of the structure and the level of activity suggest that there will be a substantial impact on the environment of the Mountain and the birds and animals which make it their habitat.The applicant should be required to undertake an analysis of the impact of the facility on the eco-system on the mountain.

 

CONCLUSION

The Board of Supervisors should either reject the pending Commission Permit and return the application to the Planning Commission for further analysis or send the application to TLUC and clarify the answers to the questions identified here.

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Mark your calendars for May 26 to attend a webinar about the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership and strategies to help preserve Monarch butterflies.

Biologists, habitat conservation experts and landscape scientists have been meeting for more than two years to develop science-based strategies to save Monarchs. The success of conservation efforts will need to involve government and non-government bodies as well as the help of citizens throughout North America.Monarch_20150823-98

Speakers at the seminar will present a summary of the Partnership’s work, including priorities for habitat protection and restoration, targets for monarch population to minimize risks of extinction, and identification of the most important risks to the Monarch population.

Dr. Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab, Ryan Drum from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wayne Thogmartin of the U.S. Geological Service will speak at the webinar, which is a collaboration between the Monarch Joint Venture and the National Conservation Training Center.

You will need to register for the 2 p.m. webinar.

Another effort to help Monarchs comes from the Monarch Joint Venture partner Naturedigger, which has developed an app, Monarch SOS.

Currently Monarch SOS helps users identify Monarchs and similar varieties of butterflies as well as different milkweeds and insects found in Milkweed habitat.  Eventually, Monarch SOS will allow users to record data and send it to participating programs such as Journey North and Monarch Watch.

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Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is delighted to hear that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), has received a Virginia Green Travel Star Award for Most Innovative Green Project for a commitment to green tourism practices through its Pollinator Habitat Program at Virginia Welcome Centers.

In 2014, VDOT launched the Pollinator Habitat Program working with Loudoun Wildlife on four pilot plots in four Northern Virginia, planting milkweed and other native plants that will help species of beneficial insects such as bees and Monarch_20150823-98butterflies, including the Monarch.

Last year, Loudoun Wildlife volunteers and Dominion Power representatives worked with VDOT to restore a 15,000 square foot meadow restoration as well as smaller plantings at a center on I-95 north in Dale City. The Dale City Rest Area on I-95 south was one of the four sites planted in 2014.

VDOT has worked on three other sites in southwestern Virginia and is planning other projects as the program expands around the state. You can find out more about VDOT’s Pollinator Habitat Program here http://www.virginiadot.org/programs/pollinator_habitat_program.asp.

You can start your own pollinator welcome center at home, at school, at your business and just about anywhere. Mark your calendar for the April 23 Loudoun Wildlife Native Plant sale at Morven Park and go to our website, www.loudounwildlife.org for events and information about Monarch butterflies and other species.

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Wood Turtle, one of our state threatened species due to habitat loss. Photo by Nicole Hamilton

Your Action Needed

On Wednesday, October 14 at 6 pm, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider proposed zoning ordinance amendments that would undo existing floodplain protections.

County professional staff have outlined numerous concerns about the amendments, which you can read here.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy sent the letter below to our Board of Supervisors.

Please join us – along with our partners on the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition – in asking our Supervisors to maintain existing floodplain protections, and reject new amendments that would threaten those protections.  

Now is the time to defend Loudoun County’s precious natural resources and wildlife, before they’re gone forever.

MacDowell Property Floodplain Mar 19 2005 4Write your own letter to the Supervisors using the points below, or come to speak at the public hearing, October 14 beginning at 6 pm, in the County Government Center at 1 Harrison Street, SE in Leesburg.

Email all the Supervisors together at bos@loudoun.gov or find your Supervisor’s email here:  http://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=2178.  To call in advance to sign up to speak at the public hearing, call the Clerk to the Board of Supervisors at 703-777-0200.

 

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Letter to our Board of Supervisors

 

Dear Chairman York and Members of the Board of Supervisors -

I write on behalf of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, a 20-year-old organization with over 1,000 members.  This month, you will make a critical decision on Loudoun County’s future when you vote on proposed amendments to longstanding Zoning Ordinance protections for floodplains.

We have reviewed the many proposed amendments to floodplain ordinances as described in item 6 of the October 14 Public Hearing package, which would include allowing new stormwater management facilities, parking, and outdoor storage in floodplains; and weakening standards for relocation of natural stream channels.  Each of these would threaten what remains of Loudoun County’s once-thriving natural environment and wildlife, while at the same time putting citizen health and safety at risk, and causing adverse economic impact to the majority of our local residents and businesses.

We ask that you reject the proposed amendments, and thereby maintain longstanding county floodplain protections which in turn help to protect our county’s citizens and natural resources.

Floodplains are critical to survival for many of our native wildlife species.  Wood Turtles, a Virginia Threatened Species, once thrived in our county – but today are found in only a few remaining pockets of floodplain habitat.  Other native species that rely on floodplain habitat include the Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo; and amphibians like the Marbled Salamander, Spotted Salamander, and Three-lined Salamander. The proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments would compound threats these species already face, by authorizing new uses directly on top of their now-rare habitats.  The amendments would also exacerbate threats to these species by permitting new floodplain uses upstream and thereby causing pollutant run-off into their few remaining habitats in Loudoun, Fairfax, and other adjacent counties.

Floodplains are an asset to all our county’s citizens, as they help to keep our water clean and reduce flood risk. They help to trap pollutants and prevent these substances from reaching streams and drinking water, thereby reducing adverse human health effects and filtering costs. Floodplains provide flood control by storing stormwater and reducing the volume and velocity of flood flows, thereby reducing flood hazard risk to people and property. The free ecosystem services provided by floodplains help to keep Loudoun County property values strong and insurance costs low.

Existing Loudoun County zoning rules, put in place with comprehensive citizen input more than twenty years ago, call for maintaining the natural benefits of floodplains and requiring that certain floodplain uses be restricted or prohibited.  According to our County website, “because of the implementation of Loudoun County’s floodplain management program, there are very few properties that experience recurring flood damage.”

The proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments would put our county’s citizens at risk in many ways. Proposed new stormwater management facilities would prevent our floodplains from providing the flood control services they now provide naturally and for free – thereby increasing flood risk and taxpayer costs. New parking lots would prevent floodplains from absorbing water during a flood event, and thereby increase the intensity of flood waters.  New storage facilities in floodplains could result in stored materials being dislodged in a flood, causing water pollution and harm to people and property.  Reducing standards for stream channel relocation would undermine county efforts currently in progress to maintain and improve water quality and habitat through the Watershed Implementation Plan.

Please protect Loudoun County’s future by rejecting the proposed amendments and maintaining existing floodplain protections.

Sincerely,
Alysoun Mahoney
Conservation Advocacy Chair and Member, Board of Directors
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
www.loudounwildlife.org

 

Photos by Nicole Hamilton.  1) Wood Turtle, one of our state threatened species due to habitat loss.  2) Floodplain, an undervalued resource that we need to preserve.

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Why did the turtle cross the road?

She was likely living between two ponds, both man made, one in a golf course, the other in a planned townhouse community, separated by what is now a busy Loudoun County road. At some point, her life was destined to intersect with a mass of metal moving at 50 mph. It didn’t take much to crack her carapace and flip her over. I found her upside down, legs waving frantically, in the middle of the road. Her injury didn’t look too bad (considering) and she was feisty (a good sign). Painted with brilliant red and yellow veins, she was a gorgeous painted turtle in the prime of her life.

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On the way to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center where she would receive treatment and their magical healing abilities.

Painted turtles are the most widely distributed turtles in North America. They spend their lives in and near freshwater habitats with soft bottoms. In Native American folklore, a turtle fell in love with the chief’s daughter but neither the daughter nor her parents would take notice of him. Finally, he painted himself to attract attention and as soon as the chief’s daughter saw him, she fell in love and followed him to the water where she became a soft shelled turtle.

After a week of treatment by the highly skilled angels at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, she was ready for release. Painted turtles, along with other turtle species, must be released where they are found. Relocating turtles spreads disease and can result in the turtle dying in its attempt to return to its home territory. Nicole Hamilton, Executive Director of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, suggested using Google Maps satellite imagery to look for a safer place within a mile of where she was found. Just a bit over a mile away, still within a reasonable range, the Willowsford Grange Community with native wildflower meadows bordered by creeks and wildlife friendly residents and farmers, provided everything this girl needed to spend what would hopefully be an uneventful remainder of her 40 or so years of life.

2015-09-12 13.04.16

After meeting her new neighbors at the Willowsford farm stand, she was ready for her new beginning.

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We walked along the stream bed in a gentle drizzle to where a giant blue lobelia was blooming.

She took her time making her way to the water. Maybe she was resetting her internal compass, or perhaps she was taking a moment to absorb her peaceful surroundings, so different from her previous home.

2015-09-12 13.23.19

…finally, she entered the water. Live long and prosper beautiful painted turtle.

Please drive carefully. Their lives depend on us.

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www.loudounwildlife.org
www.willowsford.com/community/conservancy
www.blueridgewildlife.org

 

 

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Huge thanks to all the volunteers who planted 9000 native plants for Monarch butterflies! The planting occurred Sept. 29 at the Dale City rest area at mile marker 156 of I-95 heading north – and yes! Monarch butterflies heading south were seen and wished a safe journey.

Way to go, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, VDOT and VA Dominion Power for teaming up to keep the magic alive.

We are making a difference!

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www.flickr.com/photos/vadot/sets/72157656972559703

www.loudountimes.com/news/article/can_9k_plants_bring_back_the_monarchs_loudoun_wildlife_teams_up_with_vdo323

wtop.com/prince-william-county/2015/09/butterfly-habitat-planted-at-dale-city-rest-stop/

 

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