The monarch butterfly is known as the “king” of butterflies, and is considered the most familiar butterfly in North America. Easily identified by its distinctive and iconic black, orange, and white pattern, the monarch is known for its incredible migration that brings millions of monarchs from the eastern United States and Canada to southern California and Mexico each winter.
Where is the monarch butterfly located?
Monarchs can be found throughout the United States, including Hawaii, though most are found east of the Rocky Mountains. Every year, tens of millions of monarch butterflies travel over 2,500 miles from Canada and the northeastern United States to spend the winter in the pine forests of Mexico’s Michoacán region. The population of monarchs living west of the Rocky Mountains migrates only as far south as San Diego each winter.
Why is the monarch butterfly in trouble?
In June of 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed plan to protect the butterfly just months after the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a suit alleging EPA did not sufficiently consider warnings about the impact of a widely used herbicide on the species. The monarch’s larvae are dependent on milkweed as their sole source of food, and the herbicide in question is alleged to kill milkweed and prevent its regeneration. The butterfly also suffers from deforestation in Mexico and changing climates across their broad range. As a result, the monarch butterfly population has fallen from around 1 billion in the mid-1990’s to 56.5 million in 2015.
If the monarch butterfly is listed as an endangered or threatened species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) would be required to designate and protect critical habitat for the insect. This could require farmers to limit their use of milkweed-killing herbicides and corridors along the insect’s migratory path could be placed off-limits to development.
What is being done to help the monarch butterfly?
- December 29, 2014: FWS responds to a petition requesting federal protection for monarch butterflies by saying that a listing may be warranted, beginning a one-year scientific review of the butterfly.
- February 9, 2015: FWS announces $3.2 million to help save the monarch butterfly, with $2 million going towards the restoration of 200,000 acres of habitat and the rest being used to start a conservation fund.
- February 27, 2015: NRDC files a suit alleging the EPA did not sufficiently consider warnings about the impact of an herbicide on the species.
- March 2, 2015: IPAA and API submit joint comments to FWS in response to a request for comment on the status of the monarch butterfly, highlighting the negligible impact of oil and gas operations on the species.
- June 24, 2015: The EPA announces a proposal to protect the monarch butterfly and balance weed management with milkweed conservation.
- November 12, 2015: The U.S. Department of Agriculture invests $4 million in a new effort to help agricultural producers provide food and habitat for monarch butterflies in the Midwest and southern Great Plains.
- January 5, 2016: The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety threaten to sue FWS because the agency has exceeded the 12-month scientific review period required by law.
What is IPAA doing in regard to the monarch?
In March 2015, IPAA submitted joint comments with API to the FWS in response to a request for comment on the status of the monarch butterfly, highlighting the negligible impact of oil and gas operations on the butterfly’s population and its expansive habitat range. As the comments highlight, “no evidence exists in the literature of adverse effects from oil and gas industry operations on the species itself or on the destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species’ habitat or range.”