Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange

The iconic butterfly has an unlikely ally in the fight against extinction

Monarch butterfly

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

Kristin Duncanson and David Wolfe

Kristin Duncanson, owner of Duncanson Growers in Mapleton, Minnesota, talks to EDF’s David Wolfe about opportunities for farmers to generate credits for planting milkweed on their property, earning a new revenue stream and reducing the likelihood of an Endangered Species Act listing in the future.

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.

Coming soon

An initial version of the monarch habitat quantification tool has been developed and tested on various sites along the monarch’s migratory routes, and is now being externally reviewed by monarch scientists.

We are currently working with stakeholders and critical partners to help us design, test and operationalize the exchange in key states including Iowa, Texas and California. Pilot projects are currently underway in Texas and the goal is to formally launch the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange in 2017.

Interested in participating in the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange? Sign up below and we’ll be in touch once the exchange is open for enrollment.

Media contact

  • Chandler Clay
    (202) 572-3312 (office)
    (302) 598-7559 (cell)
  • 90%Approximate monarch population decline in last 20 years
  • 3000Miles the monarch travels on its annual migration from Canada to Mexico
  • 4Generations of monarch it takes to complete the year-long migration


PDF Monarch HQT Handout Format: Adobe PDF (5.93 MB)

PDF HQT User’s Guide (North Central Region) Format: Adobe PDF (3.15 MB)

PDF HQT User’s Guide (South Central Region) Format: Adobe PDF (3.01 MB)

XLS HQT Calculator (North Central Region) Format: Microsoft Excel (1.02 MB)

XLS HQT Calculator (South Central Region) Format: Microsoft Exel (1.02 MB)

PDF HQT Specifications (All Regions) Format: Adobe PDF (564 KB)