Just before the New Year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will be reviewing the status of the monarch butterfly in order to determine whether it should be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The action followed submission of a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Dr. Lincoln Brower to list a subspecies of monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus). The petition stated that “The monarch is an iconic large orange and black butterfly that is one of the most familiar butterflies in North America. During summer monarchs can be found throughout the United States and southern Canada in most places where milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), their host plants, are available. Each year monarchs undertake a spectacular multi-generational migration of thousands of miles to and from overwintering and breeding areas. Most monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains migrate from southern Canada and the northern United States to the mountains of interior Mexico to overwinter. Most monarchs west of the Continental Divide migrate to coastal California.”
The monarch habitat is being destroyed as its migration routes from Mexico through the U.S. and into Canada are being taken over by mega farms growing corn and soybeans where milkweed once grew. Milkweeds are the only plant species on which monarchs lay their eggs.
According to the petition, “The best available scientific information indicates that the monarch butterfly is threatened in a significant portion of its range…. by, among other things, pesticide use from genetically engineered, pesticide-resistant crop systems that kill milkweeds and nectar sources, as well as by development, logging, and climate change.”
Help stem the deep decline in the monarch population by planting milkweed plants everywhere. Plant them as soon as weather permits and act beyond your garden. Encourage your community to try highways, school fields, empty parking lots, industrial areas, parks and even ditches. The Land Alliance is maintaining stands of common milkweed, swamp milkweed and butterfly weed at 95 Shore Road in Cold Spring Harbor and the Hope Goddard Iselin Preserve in Upper Brookville.
To submit comments about listing the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act by the March 2, 2015 deadline, visit www.regulations.gov docket number FWS-R3-ES-2014-0056.