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Blog - Desert Botanical Garden

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Milkweeds and Monarchs:

Planting for a Fruitful Future

When you play at Gila River Hotels & Casinos, you play for good. Did you know that under the Arizona Tribal-State Gaming compacts, 12% of the tribe’s contribution to the state has been invested back into Arizona to improve education, healthcare, conservation and public safety throughout the state? To show you how these tribal gaming revenues directly impact organizations, we are celebrating our partnership with Desert Botanical Garden this month.

Eight Decades of Growth

Desert Botanical Garden has been an Arizona icon for over 80 years! In 1939, a small group of passionate, local citizens saw the need to conserve Arizona’s beautiful and unique desert environment. Eight decades later, the Garden blossomed into a picturesque living museum, committed to advancing excellence in education, research, exhibition and conservation of desert plants.

Each year, the Garden welcomes over 500,000 locals and tourists to explore 140 breathtaking acres of desert plants. Most people that visit the Garden walk away from the experience surprised, amazed and inspired by the beauty and wonder it has to offer - over 50,000 plants that represent more than 4,000 species of cactus, trees and flowers from all around the world. World-class exhibitions, festivals and other special events add to the mix of what makes Desert Botanical Garden a staple to Arizona that Gila River Hotels & Casinos is honored to support!

Planting a Partnership

While many of you may recognize Monarch butterflies for their vibrant, orange coloring, you might not know that Monarch butterflies also play a key role in our ecosystem as an indicator of environmental conditions. Monarchs migrate to a few select locations in the winter, allowing biologists to get more accurate counts of the population. Unfortunately, Monarch populations at these overwintering sites are in decline along with other insects that face similar stressors like loss of habitat, climate change and insecticide use.

The Garden is actively fighting to preserve the Monarch population with the help of Gila River and our players. The contribution from Gila River Hotels & Casinos and the Gila River Indian Community advanced a key initiative of the Garden – the Great Milkweed Grow Out. This initiative focuses on monarch butterfly and pollinator conservation through the growth of native plants, outreach and community plantings, and research that helps conservationists understand how monarchs and pollinators use plants in urban spaces and wildlands.

The Garden distributed more than 6,000 milkweeds in the last five years as part of the Great Milkweed Grow Out which made an incredible difference in our area. The actions the Garden takes to help monarchs, like the Great Milkweed Grow Out, benefit other important insects that pollinate our crops and keep our ecosystems healthy.

Funds from the grant are also being used to create a Healing Pathway and a native plant garden at Spaces of Opportunity, a 19-acre multi-use community garden, located in South Phoenix. When completed, it will be a space the community can gather, recreate and learn more about the importance of native plants in the Sonoran Desert.

How can you help?

One of the best things about Monarchs is anyone can help. Some of the main stressors causing a decline in Monarch and other pollinator populations are loss of habitat, climate change and insecticide use. Reducing your pesticide use wherever possible and planting even small amounts of milkweed habitats in your yard can make a great impact on our environment. Look for milkweeds and nectar plants native to Arizona at the Garden Shop, the Desert Botanical Garden’s twice yearly plant sale or at local nurseries. It is easier than you might think to make a difference!

The next time you play at Gila River, know you are helping make a remarkable impact on the health of our ecosystem now and for future generations.

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Make sure to use the hashtag #playatgila for all your social media and check back here to see if your posts get featured!

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