Standing in front of a room crowded with reporters, employees and leaders, and representatives from environmental agencies spanning the great state of Texas, former First Lady Laura Bush praised BAE Systems’ Austin site for fostering stewardship of nature. The site’s campus has recently undergone a transformation – moving from a landscape that fights its natural surroundings in order to survive to one covered in native plantings that conserve water and establish flyway zones for migrating, pollinating insects such as monarch butterflies.
“Watching wildlife return and flourish on a corporate campus is extraordinary,” said Mrs. Bush. “These efforts will ensure that the natural treasures of our world will endure.”
The monarch is losing its habitat; specifically, milkweed plants, which it depends on for food and laying eggs. As a result, its population across North and Central America has dropped by about 90 percent over the past 20 years.
So, why does a defense contractor care what happens to butterflies? The monarch is one of several Texas pollinators that uphold ecosystems all over the planet. Three quarters of all the world’s most common human food crops require insect pollination, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because of this, it is vital to ensure pollinators have the resources they need to survive. Protecting habitats for them means protecting our own species, too.
BAE Systems is the first corporation to partner with Texan by Nature, a nonprofit organization founded by Mrs. Bush, with the mission to spur Texan-led conservation that produces tangible benefits for people, prosperity, and natural resources. The organization launched the Monarch Wrangler project in 2015 with a goal to create habitats essential to the monarch butterfly and pollinators on corporate campuses and in Texans’ backyards. Through the program, Texan by Nature has connected BAE Systems with critical resources at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help bring our habitat restoration plans to life.
But that’s not all that’s pollinating our Austin site. In addition to removing invasive grasses, trees, and bushes and planting milkweed and native vegetation across the campus, our Austin employees are expanding recycling efforts and planting educational gardens for local school groups, and the site has begun using reclaimed water in its air conditioning systems, saving millions of gallons per year. The environmental actions have many benefits – from financial savings and reduced use of pesticides to community recognition – but best of all is the notion that a corporation can make a difference in such an important initiative.
“This company represents our goal to bring non-traditional audiences to the table to help solve our state’s most-pressing issues in natural resource management. You don’t have to be a park or wildlife refuge to help restore the population of the monarch,” said Erin Franz, executive director of Texan by Nature. “Conservation is for everyone, including defense contractors. We’re thrilled that BAE Systems is committed to pursuing this cause and educating their employees on the importance of native habitat in Texas.”
When does a BAE Systems site start to resemble a prairie more so than a production factory? When that site commits itself to fresh approaches to facilities management and helps to impact conservation in the process.