Over the past two decades, the population of monarch butterflies has plummeted, bringing the butterfly dangerously close to extinction.
A key factor in the monarch's demise is the loss of milkweed habitat across the United States, particularly in the Midwest.
Milkweed has long found a foothold in both native prairie habitats and in disturbed habitats like roadsides, ditches, cemeteries, and even in the middle of cornfields. But the monarch is losing this foothold due largely to increased use of herbicides in agriculture, and additional threats posed by climate change.
An innovative solution
With hundreds of species already in the pipeline for listing decisions, we don't have time to wait for legal action. Fortunately, new tools are emerging that have the potential to put the monarch on the path to recovery, before an Endangered Species Act listing is necessary.
A multi-stakeholder effort is now underway to build a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange, which would enable efficient and effective restoration and conservation of vital milkweed habitat, which monarchs need for breeding and feeding. Developing this program will require strong partnerships across the country, so EDF experts are partnering with key groups including Monarch Joint Venture and the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.
A new crop for farmers: milkweed
Since farmers and ranchers manage much of the habitat appropriate for milkweed, they are in a perfect position to restore and enhance this vital habitat, creating key corridors of breeding and nectaring habitats along the monarch butterfly's great migration.
By applying an advanced habitat quantification tool, the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange can accurately determine the value of habitat on any given property and enable incentive payments to be directed to priority habitat restoration and conservation sites, ensuring maximum bang for the buck, and for the butterfly.
The Exchange is open
We have worked with critical partners and stakeholders to design, test and operationalize the exchange in key states including Missouri, Texas and California. The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange opened in March 2018.