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KCS, CP, GATX, Rotary, NASCO Team for a ‘Butterfly Effect’ (Updated)

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Here’s something probably not too many rail industry people know: The migration path of the Monarch Butterfly, recently declared an endangered species, closely follows the alignment of the combined north-south Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern networks, which (pending merger approval by the Surface Transportation Board) will in early 2023 merge to form CPKC (Canadian Pacific Kansas City), North America’s first transnational freight railroad.

Thus, the Monarch Butterfly “represents North American unity,” say CP, KCS, GATX, the Monterrey (Mexico) Metropolitan Rotary Club and NASCO (North American Supply Chain Organization), which have launched the Save the Monarch Butterfly 60,000 Tree Challenge North American Boxcar Tour to raise $100,000. The funds raised will be used to plant 60,000 Oyamel fir trees at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico to help reestablish the monarch population.

In support of the 60,000 Tree Challenge, a crowd-funding QR code (above) is featured on the side of the “Monarch Mariposa Boxcar” (below), prepared by the GATX shop in Hearne, Tex. Starting this fall, the boxcar will stop at events in Windsor, Ont.; Chicago; Kansas City, Mo.; Laredo, Tex.; Nuevo Laredo, Tamps.; Monterrey, Nuevo Leon; San Luis Potosi, S.L.P.; Morelia, Michoacán; and conclude at the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. In coordination with local Rotary clubs, these events “will generate awareness and raise funds to help save the butterfly,” the sponsoring organizations say. “This innovative environmental project is an example of our commitment of sustainability.”

The boxcar is a 60-foot exterior-post hi-cube (Plate F) plug-door unit built by TrinityRail. GATX photo

“Monarch butterflies are among the most recognizable butterfly species in North America,” the sponsoring organizations note. “In addition to being an international symbol of the environment, they contribute to the health of the planet. Pollinators are critical to global food security and healthy natural ecosystems, but they’re disappearing at an alarming rate. Beloved across its tri-national North American range, the iconic Monarch has only a 10% chance of persisting above the extinction threshold over the next 30 years. The time is now to protect Monarchs and their incredible 3,000-mile migration. 

El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. Photo courtesy JourneyNorth.org.

“Last month, the International Union for Conservation of Nature red-listed the migratory monarch as endangered, placing it just two steps from extinction. While this listing is not the same as a listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, it is another loud call to action that an all-hands-on-deck approach for monarch and pollinator conservation is needed. 

Monarch Butterfly, Monmouth Beach, N.J. Summer 2021. William C. Vantuono photo

“Monarchs appear to use a combination of air currents, the magnetic pull of the earth and the position of the sun, among other guides, to find their way south to Michoacán, Mexico for the winter and to the United States and Canada for the summer. Monarchs only travel during the day and need to find a roost at night, where they gather at waystations to rest, refuel, breed, and lay eggs along the way. Many of these locations are used year after year. Although the Oyamel forests in Mexico are recognized as important to Monarch butterflies, deforestation and climate change over decades have fragmented the habitat. The disappearance of the Oyamel forest affects the Monarch butterfly and the local communities that rely on the forest for their livelihoods, water, healthy soil and erosion control.”

Keith Creel and Pat Ottensmeyer

“KCS is proud to work in partnership with CP, GATX, Rotary and NASCO to drive the 60,000 Tree Challenge,” said KCS President and CEO Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, Railway Age’s 2020 Railroader of the Year and, with CP President and CEP Keith Creel, 2022 Co-Railroader of the Year. “In addition, we are installing waystations throughout our U.S.-Mexico network in support of Monarch conservation.” 

“The CP and KCS networks align with the Monarch’s annual migration route, providing us with a unique opportunity to help protect and restore critical habitat,” said Keith Creel, Railway Age’s 2021 Railroader of the Year. “CP is very happy to join with KCS, GATX, Rotary and NASCO to support and promote the recovery of the Monarch Butterfly.”

“As the largest global railcar lessor and one of the largest boxcar owners in North America, GATX was thrilled to help produce a custom designed boxcar to celebrate and raise awareness of the journey of the monarch butterfly in addition to making a financial contribution to support the 60,000 Tree Challenge,” said Robert C. Lyons, President and CEO of GATX. “We are proud to join forces on this innovative environmental initiative.” 

“Rotarians throughout North America are honored to join forces with CP, KCS, GATX and NASCO to regenerate vital pollinator habitat from Windsor to Michoacan. The biological corridor of the Monarch Butterfly has been fragmented by global warming, deforestation, urbanization and excessive pesticide use. At each stop of the GATX boxcar, local Rotarians will sign a pollinator pledge highlighting actions that will be implemented to protect monarch and other pollinators throughout North America,” said Alex Rechy, President of the Monterrey Metropolitan Rotary Club. 

Rotarian Chris Stein, who manages the Operation Pollination environmental framework, said, “If managed with pollinators in mind, privately owned green spaces throughout North America can be important nectar feeding areas and migration corridors for pollinators. Any company that embraces the philosophy that making money and protecting the environment can go hand-in-hand, understands that we must work together now to be able to leave a healthy planet for our children. The vision behind this creative Save the Monarch Butterfly 60,000 Tree Challenge North American Boxcar Tour epitomizes how business and the environment can work together for a better planet.” 

“NASCO is proud and honored to be part of this international effort to save the iconic symbol of North America—the Monarch Butterfly. We have educated and engaged our continental network to support local events and fundraising efforts and to plant Monarch habitats along their North American migration routes. We commend KCS, CP, GATX and Rotary for leading this effort. The Monarch Butterfly Challenge is vitally important to our North American region,” said Tiffany Melvin, President of NASCO

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