By Rachel Roberts
In the past 25 years, more than 970 million monarch butterflies – 97% of the estimated population – have vanished from the planet. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would be partnering with the National Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to provide $3.2 million dollars to save the remaining 30 million butterflies.
This announcement comes amidst the debate about whether the monarch butterfly should be classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Monarch butterflies are one of many pollinators, including wasps, beetles, and honeybees, currently experiencing significant declines.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committing $2 million dollars to the plan, while the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is committing $1.2 million. The money provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service will be invested in ground conservation programs, aimed at restoring the habitat of the monarch. The remaining $1.2 million will be used by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to generate fundraising matches from private organizations.
The goal of the restoration project is to create 200,000 acres of milkweed habitat along the Interstate 35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota. There are also plans to engage with schools, community groups, businesses, and local governments to create increased habitats for monarchs, especially at gardens and schools throughout the country.
Monarch butterflies rely primarily on milkweed plants for food and laying their eggs. The conversion of prairies into cropland, increased logging, and use of herbicides have contributed to a substantial decline in wild milkweed.
Dan Ashe, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement, “We’ve all been responsible [for the decline]. We are the consumers of agricultural products. I eat corn. American farmers are not the enemy. Can they be part of the solution? Yes.”
In fact, we can all be part of the solution. Buy products that are organic, plant milkweed in your own back yard, and encourage your friends to do the same. By taking action today, we can preserve this iconic orange, black and white butterfly that many of us know and love.