The Coming Season for the Monarchs

     There is hope. 
     On Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a partnership with the non-profit National Wildlife Federation to take focused action to save the monarch butterfly population, which is in steep decline. They backed their words with money, setting up a fund with an initial $1.2 million which will be matched by other public and private donors. They are also directing 
USFWS photo. Sully's Hill Game Preserve, North Dakota.
another $2 million to restore 200,000 acres of habitat largely focused in the critical Texas-to-Minnesota corridor. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on native milkweed, and its rapid disappearance due to habitat loss and herbicide use is a warning not only for the monarchs, but for the entire interconnected ecosystem. (You can find the press release here.) 

     What makes me tear up is the list of projects that are being funded (don't laugh, I really did). Everyone from the corporate partners of the Wildlife Habitat Council, to U.S. and state Forestry Services, to national and local conservation organizations are working together. And this is really cool: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is establishing a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) for Monarch Conservation. "Corps members will be placed in urban areas and would develop outreach and environmental education materials, create schoolyard and community habitats, train volunteers in seed collection and planting, and other outreach-related activities." Specifically, the money will "Support youth placed in strategic urban areas in the monarch’s range for periods of 4 to 8 months". Click here for a link to the list of projects.
Overwintering monarchs. USFWS photo.
     There is more good news: the few monarchs that made it to Mexico for the winter are surviving. Conditions have been favorable with no reported winter storms. I will stop all my complaining about the snow and arctic cold that this winter's storm track is throwing at us in New England if it means the monarchs remain safely unaffected by polar vortexes dipping south. They just need to hang on a little longer because in only a few weeks they will begin migrating northward towards the new schoolyard milkweed gardens and restored greenways we are planting for them.
     I feel like I want to thank someone. Thank you U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for using your resources to put governmental clout behind this effort. Thank you National Wildlife Federation for reaching across the U.S. to help form a mosaic of conservation groups, education partners and private landowners to work within this cooperative effort. Thank you regular people like you and me who have talked about it, posted about it on facebook, raised awareness, stopped spraying for "weeds", and stayed informed with resources like Journey North's monarch migration and education website.
     Last night at dinner, Bob, Andrew, Anna and I were talking about whether taking individual action to slow climate change was even worth it, given the magnitude of the problem. Despite some cynicism that arose, I think we agreed that we must act, both to do our own small part, and to urge the leaders of the large governmental and economic systems to cooperate. The story of the monarch is food for our souls: we must continue to do our small part, and we must cooperate -- and it is starting to happen. Thank you. There is hope. Let's keep it alive. 

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