Monarch Watch Blog

Monarch Butterfly Conservation

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 1:32 pm by Chip Taylor
Filed under Mexico, Monarch Conservation | 4 Comments »

In a previous blog entry (“Deforestation and Monarch Conservation“) I outlined my concerns about the loss of monarch habits in both the United States and Mexico. Although my intention in the earlier piece was to draw attention to problems confronting monarch butterflies, I also made a few suggestions as to what has to be done to protect them. To further the discussion, I offer here some thoughts as to what needs to be done to ensure the monarch butterfly migration will continue.

Clearly, we need an international dialog about how to conserve monarch butterflies. Such a dialog has begun with the development of a plan for monarch conservation. The North American Monarch Conservation Plan, which will soon be made public, deals with many of the biological issues related to monarchs including concerns about habitat loss. Unfortunately, the plan is unfunded and it is not clear whether or if funding will be available to implement the plan in a timely manner. Some of the suggestions below are similar to those in the plan, while others are novel and more direct approaches to the problems associated with habitat loss.

We need to create, conserve, and protect monarch butterfly habitats – the following are suggested actions to save the migration of the monarch butterfly.

In the United States and Canada:

Encourage departments of transportation to reduce the use of herbicides and to adopt planting and mowing practices that favor the growth of milkweeds and nectar plants along roadsides.
Promote and support conservation organizations (such as Monarch Watch) that have habitat protection as part of their mission to encourage the planting of milkweeds and native nectar plants.
Encourage private land owners to adopt monarch-friendly land management practices.
Encourage milkweed restoration on private and public lands.
Encourage gardening associations, gardeners, and homeowners to plant milkweeds.
Encourage nature centers, zoos, schools, libraries, parks, municipalities, and other public facilities to plant milkweeds.
Develop a habitat protection plan for the 1 billion acres of Federal lands that contain monarch butterfly habitats.
Fund outreach and educational efforts needed to accomplish the above.
Modify existing laws, particularly in Canada, that prohibit growing milkweeds on private lands.

In Mexico:

Reduce the illegal logging to a manageable level with better interdiction. Given the price of lumber in Mexico it is doubtful that illegal logging can be stopped but it can certainly be reduced. Almost every mountain forest in the area is under attack; Sierra Chincua, Los Aparicio, and Cerro Pelon have lost significant forest cover in recent years and the forests are under attack in several other areas.
Increase reforestation. Reforestation needs to increase from the 1-2 million seedlings planted per year at present to 3-5 or even 6 million per year. Better post-planting care of seedlings is needed in areas that have been clear cut; e.g., Cerro Pelon, Los Aparcio, Sierra Chincua, and Chivati-Huacal.
Assemble stewardship conservation funds (about $20 million over the next 4-5 years) to pay the residents to become stewards of the forest – from planting to sustainable harvest. The stewardship program should be designed around employment but based on incentives and bonuses to assure that the program goals are achieved.
Identify an international non-governmental organization (NGO) to administer the stewardship conservation funds and to monitor the forests.
Create an education/outreach program for the local residents in forest management and watershed protection. The watersheds support the communities and they need to be protected.
Vastly increase production of both Pinus pseudostrobus and Pinus gregii at intermediate altitudes, within and outside of the reserve, to meet the lumber, paper, and particle board needs for Mexico.
Devise creative ways to introduce alternative sources of income for the residents.
Implement a micro-loan program for women to encourage development of family-centered enterprises.
Protect (or create) water sources for the monarch butterflies near the colonies.
Outline a forty-year management plan for the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR).
Establish boundary markers that delineate the core zone of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
Explore land ownership alternatives in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
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  1. 4 Responses to “Monarch Butterfly Conservation”

  2. By Lynn Arneill-Brown on Jan 13, 2010

    I have milkweed plants in my garden in S.Calfornia. Last year I had two plants and two caterpillars. This past season, the butterflies came late, around Labor Day. I had over 30 caterpillars hatch on two plants. I had to buy more plants just to feed the little buggers. However, quite a few died, some crawled away never to be seen again, even in butterfly form, and 4 were able to make complete chrysallis, but not hatch out, even though you could see the butterfly. A lot, started to make their chrysillis and then stopped and died.
    Now, what is strange is we have monarchs that winter over here. They are still laying eggs. I have had 10 caterpillars feeding on my milkweeds, 4 have grown big enough to crawl away hopefully form a chrysaliis. Is it normal for the wintering butterflies to keep breeding?

  3. By Catalina Trail on Dec 3, 2011

    I support all of the proposals made above as absolutely necessary for the survival of the Monarch Butterfly. I am wondering if funds from tourism and merchandise serve a function in the promotion of conservation.
    When I first found the overwintering colonies in 1974, published in National Geographic in August 1976 with me on the cover, I was very exited about finding them but shortly after I became very afraid for their survival…

  4. By Karen on Apr 29, 2012

    When I get out to my sisters I will do my part in planting milkweed.

  5. By peter lippman on May 2, 2012

    Please in form me of what charitable organizations are currently involved in the problem of monarch conservation and which are proving most effective.

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