CEDAR RAPIDS — When Gazette outdoors reporter Orlan Love isn’t fishing, hunting, paddling or writing, he spends his summer days raising endangered monarch butterflies.
He and wife, Corinne, went from just a few monarchs emerging from chrysalises in their yard in 2015 to 18 this year. Their patch of milkweed in Quasqueton has become a tented predator-free paradise and official monarch zone.
“I guess I’m starting to be a monarch evangelist,” Love said Friday.
The Monarch Research Project on Friday announced a $200,000 anonymous gift made in honor of Love. The money will pay for construction of a Linn County pollinator habitat to promote the survival of butterflies and bees.
“Orlan’s stories about the plight of the monarch butterfly and the efforts undertaken to restore its dwindling population have inspired many in this community,” project Director Clark McLeod said in a statement.
Love wrote a story earlier this week — on his day off — about the project’s five-year goal of quadrupling the number of tented monarch zones, which could potentially yield 300,000 butterflies.
The organization also is developing unproductive land into pollinator zones suitable for hosting the large number of released monarchs, Love reported.
Love didn’t know at the time that a donor called McLeod last week after a fundraiser and asked about making a $200,000 gift — which came with naming rights.
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“He said, ‘It’s not for my wife and I. We want this in Orlan Love’s name,’ ” McLeod said. “The donor felt that Orlan does such a magnificent job making the outdoors special.”
The new habitat located in a local park will be called the Orlan Love Pollinator Prairie.
“It blows me away,” Love said Friday when he learned of the donation. “I can’t imagine anybody would think I was that much of an influence on folks.”
Love, 67, joined The Gazette staff in 1994 as an assistant editor. He became the newspaper’s outdoors reporter a few years later, using his firsthand knowledge of the natural world to inform his in-depth, but personal, writing.
Love hunts turkey in the spring, pheasant in the fall, dove on occasion. On a good year he fishes 100 days, “usually in the evenings after work,” Love said. He forages for morel mushrooms every day he can find them and kayaks and canoes when the mood strikes.
“I try to let people know there’s a lot of fun to be had outdoors,” he said.
Love’s work has earned numerous awards, including the Iowa Newspaper Association’s Best Sports Columnist award in 2014 for his story recounting a Marion man’s epic battle with a grizzly bear.
Love and Gazette photographer Jim Slosiarek paddled the Cedar River from Otranto to Columbus Junction in 2008, reporting on the river’s people, problems and future in the year the river devastated Cedar Rapids with historic flooding.