Monarch Butterfly: U.S. Agency Pledges $20 Million For Conservation

A planed $20 million budget for monarch butterflies habitat restoration efforts over the next five years has been announced by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Populations of the iconic Monarch butterfly hit an all-time low in the winter of 2013-2014, according to the Minnesota-based conservation group Monarch Joint Venture, with an estimated population of 33 million, down from the 1996-97 population of 1 billion monarchs.

Factors behind the decline in the butterfly’s population include a loss of their natural prairie habitat, and loss of the milkweed habitat needed to lay their eggs and for their caterpillars to eat.

The agency, Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe said, has allocated $4 million a year over the next five years to support monarchs, in an effort to keep the species off the endangered species list.

Fish and Wildlife is working in collaboration with the Monarch Joint Venture, the National Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore and enhance over 200,000 acres of habitat for monarchs on public and private lands this year. In addition, they are supporting more than 750 schoolyard habitat projects and pollinator gardens nationwide.

The new funding will help USFWS to focus, with their partners, on conserving breeding and migration habitat in priority areas, such as spring breeding areas in Texas and Oklahoma, summer breeding habitat in Minnesota and other Midwest Corn Belt states, and areas west of the Rockies important for the western monarch population.

3,000 Mile Journey

Much of a monarch butterfly’s (Danaus plexippus) life is spent migrating between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada-a journey that for some individuals can cover over 3,000 miles. However, in recent years, this journey has become more dangerous and less successful for many because of deforestation, illegal logging, increased development, agricultural expansion, livestock raising, forest fires, and other threats to their migratory paths and summer and overwintering habitats.

“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.”

Original article by Denise Rosenfield for Reliawire

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