| U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service News
Campaign to Save Beleaguered Monarch Butterfly
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a major campaign aimed at saving the declining monarch butterfly.
The Service signed a cooperative agreement with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), announced a major new funding initiative with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and pledged $2 million in immediate funding for on-the-ground conservation projects around the country.
Introducing the new initiatives at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. were Service Director Dan Ashe, U.S. Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar, NWF President and CEO Collin O’Mara, and NFWF representatives.
Monarchs are found across the United States. While they numbered some 1 billion in 1996, their numbers have declined by approximately 90 percent in recent years. The decline is the result of numerous threats, particularly loss of habitat due to agricultural practices, development and cropland conversion. Degradation of wintering habitat in Mexico and California has also had a negative impact on the species.
“We can save the monarch butterfly in North America, but only if we act quickly and together,” said Ashe. “And that is why we are excited to be working with the National Wildlife Federation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to engage Americans everywhere, from schools and community groups to corporations and governments, in protecting and restoring habitat. Together we can create oases for monarchs in communities across the country.”
The memorandum of understanding between NWF and the Service will serve as a catalyst for national collaboration on monarch conservation, particularly in planting native milkweed and nectar plants, the primary food sources in breeding and migration habitats for the butterfly.
The new NFWF Monarch Conservation Fund was kick-started by an injection of $1.2 million from the Service that will be matched by private and public donors. The fund will provide the first dedicated source of funding for projects working to conserve monarchs.
From California to the Corn Belt, the Service will also fund numerous conservation projects totaling $2 million this year to restore and enhance more than 200,000 acres of habitat for monarchs while also supporting more than 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. Many of the projects will focus on the I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, areas that provide important spring and summer breeding habitats in the eastern population’s central flyway.
The monarch may be the best-known butterfly species in the United States. Every year they undertake one of the world’s most remarkable migrations, traveling thousands of miles over many generations from Mexico, across the United States, to Canada.
The monarch’s exclusive larval host plant and a critical food source is native milkweed, which has been eradicated or severely degraded in many areas across the U.S. The accelerated conversion of the continent’s native short and tallgrass prairie habitat to crop production has also had an adverse impact on the monarch.
The monarch serves as an indicator of the health of pollinators across the American landscape. Conserving and connecting habitat for monarchs will benefit other plants, animals and important insect and avian pollinators.
A new Web site -- http://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch -- provides information on how Americans can get involved with the campaign.
Image: Monarch butterflies at Anahuac NWR, photo by Joe Blackburn
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