President's View: Enlisting Gardeners to Plant for Monarchs

A mighty effort to protect our monarch butterflies

  • Collin O’Mara President & CEO of the National Wildlife Federation
  • Conservation
  • Apr 01, 2021

A monarch butterfly sips nectar from native milkweed, the only host plant for monarch caterpillars. NWF promotes planting milkweed to save this iconic insect.

I'LL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST TIME I planted native milkweed for monarch butterflies. My mom had just read me a story about these magnificent creatures in Ranger Rick® magazine, and I was mesmerized by their stages of metamorphosis, long-distance migration and dependence on milkweed—the only host plant for monarch caterpillars. Sadly, monarch butterflies are now in peril, declining rapidly due to habitat loss, climate change and pesticides. The National Wildlife Federation is committed to ensuring that this incredible insect does not vanish on our watch—and we need your help. 

Through our Garden for Wildlife™ programs, millions of people are now “planting with a purpose”—installing native pollinator plants where they live, learn, work, play and worship. This year, we will reach nearly 300,000 Certified Wildlife Habitats® across the country. We are also preparing to launch a new program to provide gardeners with native plants that will help pollinators and other wildlife thrive. 

Through our Mayors’ Monarch Pledge program, more than 700 municipalities have committed to planting native milkweed and nectar plants for monarchs. The Federation and partners are also installing pollinator habitat along I-35—which runs along a major monarch migration route—and we’re restoring climate-resilient native habitats in urban Texas to act as ecological stepping-stones for monarch migration. 

At the federal level, we’re pushing the Biden administration to make monarch recovery a national priority, especially after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently determined that Endangered Species Act protections for monarchs are warranted. In Congress, we’re advocating for passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which will support recovery of thousands of at-risk species through collaborative efforts, including regional monarch conservation strategies. We’re calling for passage of a North American Grasslands Conservation Act to conserve native grasslands and restore habitat across the monarch’s migration corridors. We’re working to increase funding to help farmers and ranchers install pollinator-friendly plants, turn marginal croplands into wildlife habitat and improve sustainable practices. And we’re encouraging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require thorough ecological-impact analyses before approving pesticides such as dicamba, which commonly drift and kill flowering plants needed by pollinators.

If we all join forces to plant for pollinators, we will see monarch populations soar again.

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More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

How to Issue Wildlife-Friendly Proclamations in Your Community »
NWF: Our Work »
Read Last Issue's President's View »

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