The Monarch butterflies population declined by approximately 90 percent or 970 million in recent years due to numerous threats, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report. Those threats include the loss of habitat as a product of agricultural practices, cropland and development conversion. This loss comes from farmers and gardeners spraying herbicides on milkweed plants, a food source, nursery and home for butterflies.
In an attempt to save the declining population, the agency partnered with the National Wildlife Federation to create a campaign and funding initiative that will focus on planting mass amounts of milkweed plants to reestablish the monarch’s natural habitats. USFWS pledged $2 million for “on-the-ground” conservation projects that will begin immediately. The NWF will take that money and begin raising awareness about milkweed plants, providing seeds to any citizens wanting to help plant milkweed both on their private properties and public spaces like roadsides, parks and forests.
The agency plans to enhance more than 200,000 acres of habitats, focusing on land that stretches Minnesota to Texas, as monarchs fly over that area on their thousand mile journey from Mexico to Canada every spring.
These are not the first butterflies to risk extinction, the Washington Post reports. The Xerces blue has been missing from San Francisco for years. Most recently, USFWS announced two more types of butterfly, the Rockland skipper and Zestos in Southern Florida, which haven’t been spotted since 2004.