$3.3M Set Aside As ‘Butterfly Grants’ To Save The Rapidly Declining Habitat Of Majestic Monarch Butterflies

$3.3M was set aside as "butterfly grants" by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The money will be spread across multiple grants that are trying to save the rapidly-declining habitat of Monarch butterflies.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced that it has earmarked $3.3 million from its Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund. The money will be distributed across 22 grants that are trying to restore the rapidly-vanishing breeding grounds of the Monarch butterfly. Interestingly, while the NFWF has shelled out $3.3M, more than $6.7 million has been pooled by various recipients, who are spread across more than a dozen states. Overall, about 115 applicants had requested for funds in the conservation effort launched earlier this year, reported Associated Press.

The grants have been used to come up with practical and sustainable ways to restore about 33,000 acres of monarch butterfly habitats.

The beautiful and majestic Monarch butterfly may look big, but is extremely fragile. The population of the delicate butterflies has been declining sharply. Within the last 20 years alone, the population of monarch butterflies has dropped from 1 billion to 60 million, raising questions about the survivability of the species. The primary reason behind the rapid reduction of the butterfly population is erosion of habitat.

A monarch butterfly

The highly selective monarch butterflies prefer to nestle around milkweed plants. However, due to rapid destruction of the habitat, the butterfly population started to reduce, forcing the foundation to promote the protection of the butterflies' habitats, said a statement about the funds.

"Monarch butterflies are found throughout most of the United States, and a majority of the population migrates up to 3,000 miles to overwinter in Mexico. Over the past 20 years, the North American monarch population has plunged from one billion to fewer than 60 million, due to many factors, including loss of critical habitat. These beautiful, black-and-orange insects depend not only on nectar-producing plants throughout their range, but also milkweed – the primary food source for monarch caterpillars."
Stressing the urgency to act in order to prevent the extinction of the butterfly species, Lila Helms, NFWF's executive vice president of external affairs, said as follows.
"NFWF and our partners acted very quickly to launch this new competitive grant program, and we were delighted to have drawn such a large number of excellent proposals. The grants we announce today will fund on-the-ground projects that will quickly contribute to a healthier, more sustainable monarch population."
The habitat reduction is because of the increasing use of artificial chemicals in enhancing crop production, said Bill Freese, a Center for Food Safety science policy analyst.
"The widespread decline of monarchs is driven by the massive spraying of herbicides on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in cropland that dominates the Midwest landscape. Doing what is needed to protect monarchs will also benefit pollinators and other valuable insects, and thus safeguard our food supply."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and NFWF private funds jointly collect the grant money to support the cause. Interestingly, Monstanto Co., the company that makes "Roundup," a powerful weed killer, which is suspected to be responsible for habitat reduction, has offered $1.2 million of grant money, reported HNGN. The company has pledged $4 million so far for conservation efforts.


The $3.3M butterfly grant may be helpful. However, the monarch butterflies need more than that to survive this century. The U.S. government is considering granting federal protection primarily because their numbers throughout the continental U.S. have dropped by more than 90 percent in the past two decades and despite the best of efforts, the species might go extinct soon.

[Image Credit | Mario Vazquez, Susana Gonzalez, Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images]