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Action Critically Needed as Eastern Monarch Butterfly Population Drops Again

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The latest 2020 eastern monarch overwintering population numbers present a grim reality: monarch populations are still sharply declining. The critically low numbers are proof that in order to save this unique and once common butterfly, we need federal and private investment including habitat restoration, better management of insecticide and herbicide use, research toward conservation strategies and passage of bills like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which can protect and conserve the ecosystems that many species rely on.

“The monarch butterfly is on the same pathway toward extinction as the passenger pigeon, a massively abundant species that disappeared in the early 1900s due to human actions and neglect,” said Dr. Bruce Stein, chief scientist at the National Wildlife Federation. “More than a century later, there is no excuse for allowing this to happen again.”

“To save the monarch — and ensure that our children and grandchildren can witness this butterfly’s extraordinary long-distance migration — we need to scale up the public and private investments needed to protect and restore their native habitat, including breeding grounds and migratory corridors,” said Dr. Rebeca Quiñonez-Piñón, monarch outreach coordinator at the National Wildlife Federation.

Native habitat restoration is crucial to the recovery of the monarch. The National Wildlife Federation works with local partners to install pollinator habitats along roadsides and to restore climate-resilient native habitats that serve as ecological stepping-stones for monarch migration in eastern urban areas.

The National Wildlife Federation focuses on building programs and outreach to protect monarch butterflies, including promoting and helping restore the breeding native habitats of the butterfly with programs like the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and Garden for Wildlife. The organization also catalyzed and supports the Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy, a 16-state conservation strategy bringing together state, federal, private, and non-governmental partners to design and implement voluntary conservation activities that will benefit monarch populations.

Anyone can help the eastern monarch butterfly by:

  • Gardening for wildlife and replacing lawns with native milkweed and nectar plants that are the sole food source for monarch caterpillars and blooming wildflowers and shrubs for adult butterflies. 
  • Reducing the use of pesticides.
  • Encouraging local leaders to join the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, which supports habitat restoration, citizen science, environmental education and local policy change to benefit monarch butterflies.
  • Supporting the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act and other state transportation programs for roadside habitat.
  • Calling on Congress to promote grassland restoration and enact a national “Sodsaver” program in the next Farm Bill. This will prevent the conversion of our native grassland habitats to croplands by making such lands ineligible for federal subsidies.

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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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