Quantcast

Farmers Key to Bringing Monarch Butterflies Back From the Brink of Extinction

Over the past two decades, the population of monarch butterflies—one of this nation’s most iconic species—has plummeted from more than one billion to about 50 million today. That’s a 95 percent decline, bringing the butterfly that much closer to extinction.

But the monarch’s story is not over, yet. With an unlikely ally on board, new solutions are emerging with the potential to bring the monarch back from the brink.

With an unlikely ally on board, new solutions are emerging with the potential to bring the monarch back from the brink. Photo credit: USFWS Midwest

Traditional Approaches are Not Enough

Conservation groups have traditionally relied on litigation under the Endangered Species Act to protect at-risk wildlife.

But with hundreds of species already in the pipeline for listing decisions, we don’t have time to wait for legal action. We must act now.

New Tools to Bring Butterflies Back

My colleagues and I are working to build a conservation program for the monarch butterfly that works efficiently and effectively to protect and restore vital milkweed habitat, which monarchs need to lay their eggs and for larvae to feed on.

Unfortunately, milkweed is in decline across the U.S., accounting for a significant portion of the population decline. Milkweed has long found a foothold in both native habitats and in disturbed habitats like roadsides, ditches, cemeteries and even in the middle of cornfields. But it’s losing that foothold due largely to increased use of highly effective herbicides and climate change poses additional threats.

The vast majority of monarch habitat exists on private lands. That’s why you may have seen other environmental groups promoting programs that encourage everyday citizens to plant milkweed in their backyard gardens.

These efforts are a big step in the right direction, but we need more—a lot more—and fast.

Farmers Can Help

Our approach is to bring more of these private conservation efforts to agricultural lands, which carry the potential to create key corridors of habitat along the monarch butterfly’s great migration.

Since farmers, ranchers and forestland owners manage much of the habitat appropriate for milkweed, we are working to develop a tool, called habitat exchanges, to accurately determine the value of habitat and allow incentive payments to be directed to the right places at the right time, ensuring maximum bang for the buck and for the butterfly.

For example, a farmer who avoids converting his or her marginal lands to cropland can earn conservation credits for instead planting milkweed on roadsides and field edges. In doing so, the farmer earns a new revenue stream and reduces the likelihood of an Endangered Species Act listing in the future.

It’s a win-win for the farmer and the beloved butterfly.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Another Animal Dies at SeaWorld Bringing Death Toll to 4 Large Mammals in Just 4 Months

150,000 Penguins Die After Huge Iceberg Blocks Route to Sea

This Viral Meme Says it All

Gruesome Tumors on Sea Turtles Linked to Climate Change and Pollution

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A roller coaster on the Jersey Shore flooded after Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Hurricane_Sandy_New_Jersey_Pier.jpg: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen / U.S. Air Force / New Jersey National Guard / CC BY 2.0

New Jersey will be the first state in the U.S. to require builders to take the climate crisis into consideration before seeking permission for a project.

Read More
The Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu speaks on Jan. 26 during a press briefing on studying the 2019-nCoV coronavirus and developing a vaccine to prevent it. Roman Balandin / TASS / Getty Images

Editor's note: The coronavirus that started in Wuhan has sickened more than 4,000 people and killed at least 100 in China as of Jan. 27, 2020. Thailand and Hong Kong each have reported eight confirmed cases, and five people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the illness. People are hoping for a vaccine to slow the spread of the disease.

Read More
Sponsored
Healthline ranks Samoas, seen above, as the 11th healthiest Girl Scout Cookie. brian / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Nancy Schimelpfening

  • Nutrition experts say healthy eating is about making good choices most of the time.
  • Treats like cookies can be eaten in moderation.
  • Information like total calories, saturated fat, and added sugars can be used to compare which foods are relatively healthier.
  • However, it's also important to savor and enjoy what you're eating so you don't feel deprived.

Yes, we know. Cookies aren't considered a "healthy" food by any stretch of the imagination.

Read More
Actress Jane Fonda is arrested during the "Fire Drill Friday" Climate Change Protest on Oct. 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. John Lamparski / Getty Images

When you see an actor in handcuffs, they're usually filming a movie. But when Jane Fonda, Ted Danson, Sally Field, and other celebrities were arrested in Washington, D.C., last fall, the only cameras rolling were from the news media.

Read More
A solitary Dungeness crab sits in the foreground, at low tide on an overcast day. The crabs' shells are dissolving because of ocean acidification on the West Coast. Claudia_Kuenkel / iStock / Getty Images

As the Pacific Ocean becomes more acidic, Dungeness crabs, which live in coastal areas, are seeing their shells eaten away, according to a new study commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Read More