On Tuesday, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced that after extensive assessment of the monarch butterfly, it would not be listed under the Endangered Species Act to allow for higher priority species listing actions. The Service concluded that the monarch butterfly will remain a candidate for the list.
Scientists have claimed a large decline in North American monarchs overwintering in Mexico and California over the last 20 years.
“We conducted an intensive, thorough review using a rigorous, transparent science-based process and found that the monarch meets listing criteria under the Endangered Species Act,” Aurelia Skipwith, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, said. “However, before we can propose listing, we must focus resources on our higher-priority listing actions.”
According to its website, “the Service used the best scientific information to evaluate threats to the monarch, including habitat loss, climate change and exposure to pesticides, and used a model to create millions of simulations of future conditions to estimate the risk of extinction. The agency launched a monarch conservation database and gathered vast quantities of data on existing and future conservation efforts that benefit the monarch across the continent. The resulting assessment was then peer reviewed.”
The Service found listing actions for 161 species on the National Listing Workplan, including plants, insects, fish, birds and mammals, a higher priority than the monarch butterfly.
While the Service determined that the listing of the monarch butterfly was warranted because they are endangered, ongoing conservation efforts across North America are taking place to address threats to the monarch butterfly and increase habitat needs.
“The Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group is focused on conserving monarchs and other pollinators through habitat conservation on energy and transportation lands throughout the United States,” Iris Caldwell, program manager of the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Energy Resources Center, said.
One of the biggest conservation plans is to “boost the number of milkweed stems across the country” since monarch butterflies are “solely dependent on milkweed during the caterpillar stage,” according to the Service. America’s farmers and ranchers are enrolled in “voluntary conservation programs, providing habitats for countless animals and insects, including the monarch.”
“While this work goes on, we are committed to our ongoing efforts with partners to conserve the monarch and its habitat at the local, regional and national levels,” Skipwith said. “Our conservation goal is to improve monarch populations, and we encourage everyone to join the effort.”