Declining monarch butterfly populations—a loss of 90 percent in the eastern U.S. in the last two decades—has led a coalition of scientists and environmental conservation groups to petition the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the butterflies as threatened species.
Listing the monarch butterfly as a threatened species would give it more protection and a greater chance of rebounding, says the groups, which includes the Center for Food Safety and the Xerces Society, along with monarch scientist, Lincoln Brower.
Among the benefits to a threatened species designation for monarch butterflies—an important pollinator species—would be the bonus of protected areas that could help them to rebound.
“We’re at risk of losing a symbolic backyard beauty that has been part of the childhood of every generation of Americans,” Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups said in a release. “The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio.”
Milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on, and it is rapidly declining from eastern U.S. states, threatening the species. It’s not a valuable plant for farmers and in recent years has been targeted by herbicides, specifically Monsanto’s Roundup. “This practice, as well as the cultivation of 1 million new acres of land in recent years, driven by higher corn and soybean prices, has destroyed milkweed crops, and greatly hurt monarchs,” reports Newsweek.
Now, scientists and environmentalist are urging landowners in the eastern U.S. to begin replanting milkweed. And if the monarch gets its threatened species status, there may be funds to help farmers do that. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also announced plans to phase out GMOs and some pesticides from National Wildlife Refuge areas, which could help pollinators like the monarch to recover.
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