PATAGONIA, Ariz. — In a letter delivered to the White House on Monday, leading monarch scientists, farmers, and educators asked President Obama and the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to direct five federal agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Farm Service Agency and Bureau of Land Management, to establish a monarch butterfly recovery initiative to restore habitat for this species on both public and private lands.
Monarch butterfly numbers have declined by 90% over the last two decades, and the loss of milkweed—the necessary host plant for monarch caterpillars—is one of the key factors responsible for the decline. This initiative will restore milkweed, monarch nectar plants and pesticide-free areas to the landscape.
“To avoid further monarch declines,” noted Make Way for Monarchs cofounder, Gary Nabhan, “we need to support farmers and public land managers to plant milkweeds and other native wildflowers on 10 to 20 million acres over the coming years.”
While monarch butterflies drink nectar for nourishment from thousands of different species of native and cultivated flowers, the foliage of milkweed is the only food source on which monarch caterpillars can feed. Without milkweed, there will be no monarchs.
“Farmers and ranchers can be engaged and given financial incentives so that they can be part of the solution to bring back this iconic butterfly,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Pollinators like monarchs provide essential services that ensure food security and farmland health.”
The habitat restoration efforts that benefit monarch butterflies typically also benefit bees, game birds and other wildlife, according to Chip Taylor, founder of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.
The letter was sent in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson’s death. This broad-based initiative will support and further the existing work of the Monarch Joint Venture, Monarch Watch, the Xerces Society, Journey North, Monarch Teacher Network, Project Monarch Health, the Pollinator Partnership and other organizations working to conserve the monarch and its incredible migration.
“This is a win-win strategy to restore monarchs and other pollinators that benefit our food supply and the health of our landscapes. It can involve multiple stakeholders to forge positive solutions through the process of collaborative conservation,” Nabhan said.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation: Scott Hoffman Black, (503) 449-3792, firstname.lastname@example.org
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