WASHINGTON — The monarch butterfly, which has been imperiled in recent years by environmental problems, habitat loss and crop changes, is finally getting some good news.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency, announced Monday that it’s launching a campaign at saving the creature.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will be partnering with a number of groups, including the National Wildlife Foundation, to raise awareness of the butterfly’s problems. The Fish and Wildlife Service is beginning the effort with $1.2 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Monarch Conservation Fund. It will also provide $2 million in funding for conservation projects.
The news was announced in an agency release.
Saving the noted orange-and-black member of the Lepidoptera order is not just a matter of saving a species; the monarch is also an indicator of environmental health. The butterflies rely almost solely on milkweed for their habitats and food source as they take several generations to migrate — as much as 3,000 miles from the United States to their winter home in Mexico.
Their numbers are in stark decline. In 1996, there were 1 billion monarch butterflies. In 2004, according to the National Geographic, that number had been cut in half. Less than 10 years later, just 33 million made the trip. About 970 million butterflies, gone.
Extinction has happened, the Washington Post observed. Other species, including the Xerces blue once native to the San Francisco area, have vanished over the years.
The initiative will help plant native milkweed and other greenery. The wildlife foundation also has a program that encourages “responsible gardening” and discourages chemical pesticides. Interested parties at many levels — from individual homeowners to whole communities — can participate.
“If we all work together — individuals, communities, farmers, land managers, and local, state, and federal agencies — we can ensure that every American child has a chance to experience amazing monarchs in their backyards,” said Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Foundation president and CEO.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, has a personal reason for the initiative. Her mother, she said at a news conference for the project, was a second-grade teacher who loved monarch butterflies — to the point of dressing as one each year and holding a sign that said “Mexico or bust” to highlight their migration.
“The monarch butterfly is the most iconic butterfly in North America,” Klobuchar said. “With the butterfly rapidly disappearing, I am pleased to see the Fish and Wildlife Service taking positive steps to reverse its decline.
“We must build on this momentum, and I will continue to call on the public and private sectors to join together in the effort to protect the monarch butterfly.”