Monarch Butterfly Rescue Plan Costs $20 Million

The Monarch Butterfly is flying down a path to extinction. In order to stem this horrifying prospect, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Thursday that it will be providing a $20 million initiative to boost rescue efforts of the Monarch Butterfly in North America.

In a statement on the Monarch Butterfly rescue initiative, Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe — accompanied by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar — said the Fish and Wildlife Service will dedicate $4 million per year over the next five years to “provide support to Monarch Butterfly rescue efforts.” This latest effort to save the Monarch Butterfly is a direct response to a previously announced White House push to revive the population of pollinators with habitat restoration and other rescue efforts.

Ashe also visited the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the site of a Monarch conservation celebration. While there, Ashe said the money from the Fish and Wildlife Service will be used in part to seed native milkweed plants along the prairie corridor that follows Interstate 35 from Duluth, Minnesota all the way down to Texas.

The Monarch Butterfly travels thousands of miles over several generations to complete a single migration to where they spend the winter months in Mexico. The Monarch Butterflies population numbered in the billions in 1996. This year, the population of Monarch Butterflies in the Mexican wintering habitat numbered at less than 56.5 million. The severe drop in population is cause for great concern, thus the initiatives put forth by the White House.

University of Minnesota Professor Karen Oberhauser said the announcement of the $20 million rescue plan announced on Thursday was evidence that the Monarch Butterfly issue was being taken seriously at the highest levels of American Government. “It’s getting high-level attention. That’s the biggest news to me.”

When it comes to the reasons why Monarch Butterflies are disappearing, Lincoln Brower, a professor at Sweet Briar College, wrote a paper in 2012 on the subject. According to Brower, there are three primary reasons for the disappearance of the Monarch: Recent bouts of severe weather, deforestation in Mexico, and the rise in popularity of herbicide-based agriculture destroying milkweed in the Midwestern United States. Monarch Butterflies typically lay their eggs on the milkweed plant, where they have the best chance of survival.

The possible extinction of Monarch Butterflies is a dangerous precursor to what may lie ahead for a whole host of other animals and ecosystems on planet Earth.

[Photo by Susana Gonzalez/Getty Images]