Butterfly Highway Proposed to Save Imperiled Monarchs

As part of a new plan to protect pollinators and save iconic monarch butterflies from disappearing, the Obama administration has proposed the creation of a butterfly highway stretching across the U.S.

Conservationists, who are calling for monarchs to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, have been raising alarm bells about the consequences of losing pollinators, who both humans and wildlife depend on to help produce food.

According to the Xerces Society, in the 1990s, an estimated one billion monarchs made their way from as far north as Canada to the oyamel fir forests in Mexico where they spend their winters sheltered by the trees, while another million were believed to spend the winter at sites in California.

Sadly, the population of monarchs has declined by a shocking 90 percent over the last 20 years, with numbers reaching a record low last winter.

Now scientists believe there are only 33 million left, who continue to face threats ranging from disease, predators and extreme weather to the use of herbicides and pesticides, particularly those with glyphosphate that are killing milkweed Ė the only plant that monarchs lay eggs on and the only plant the caterpillars will eat.

14611430440_6052ff78d3_zCredit: Andrew C/Flickr

As part of a newly released national strategy to save pollinators, a number of federal agencies will embark on an ambitious plan to bring the number of monarchs back up to 225 million by 2020.

Part of that plan includes creating a wildlife corridor, or butterfly highway, for migrating monarchs that will span 1,500 miles along Interstate 35, which runs the entire length of the U.S. from the top of Minnesota to the Texas border.

According to the strategy, it’s a key flyway for monarchs, who leave for a multi-generational migration from the southern end in the spring heading north, before they return via the same route in the fall.

The conditions along the highway also make it a perfect place for a corridor, because “they constitute large land acreage on a cumulative basis, are generally maintained in sunny areas with low vegetation height (ideal pollinator habitat), and often extend for considerable distances, thereby potentially acting as corridors for species movement and adaptation to climate change.Ē

By giving monarchs a “right-of-way,” agencies will be able to coordinate best practices for land management and habitat restoration along the entire route and in nearby areas.

Among other efforts to protect pollinators, the strategy also aims to stem the loss of honey bee colonies and restore seven million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years through public and private partnerships, in addition to calling for further study and restrictions on the use of deadly pesticides.

Conservationists and pollinator advocates have continued to stress how important our involvement is at the local level. For more info on how to help monarchs, check out the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Save the Monarch campaign, Monarch Watch and the Xerces Society, which has a number of resources, including a Milkweed Seed Finder guide to help people find native seeds for their area.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

64 comments

Karina O.
Karina O2 years ago

33 million??? I just read in couple articles, anywhere from 57 million to 60 million- that's a huge difference in numbers! Let's hope it's the latter, and not the former!

The article: http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/01/24/monarch-habitat-progress

Great news, as long as it's definitely going to happen!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing...

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Ruhee B.
Ruhee B3 years ago

Petition signed

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Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.3 years ago

ty

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell3 years ago

Thanks!

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Go for it! Petition signed

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Christian J.
Christian J.3 years ago

We welcome you to visit Save Our Monarchs (www.saveourmonarchs.org), a newly-formed 501(c)3 non-profit foundation established to bring back our monarch butterfly. Visitors can order free swamp milkweed seeds which promote monarch migration directly on our website! You can also donate to our cause if you wish.

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A3 years ago

Great idea. Lets hope it gets implemented in the near future.

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Yuliya Grishina
Yuliya Grishina3 years ago

Thank you

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Hussein Khalil
Hussein Khalil3 years ago

thanks

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