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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.
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.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.