Date: May 24, 2019
Contact: Georgia Parham, 812-334-4261 x 203, Georgia_Parham@fws.gov
Instantly recognizable and treasured by backyard gardeners, farmers and nature lovers alike, the monarch butterfly undertakes one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal kingdom. Yet in recent years it has experienced significant population declines, motivating an international conservation effort to bring numbers back to former levels.
As these efforts continue, involving myriad partners from the government, non-governmental and private sectors, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working to assess the monarch’s status in response to a petition to list the species under the Endangered Species Act. In an agreement approved by the court, the deadline to determine whether the species warrants federal protection has been extended to December 15, 2020.
The deadline extension was agreed to by the Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity, who had petitioned the Service to formally assess the status of the butterfly. The extension allows the Service to focus additional effort on obtaining the best available science, including data from the latest overwintering surveys.
“Conservation of the monarch and other at-risk species is a Service priority,” said Charlie Wooley, the Service’s acting Midwest Regional Director. “Properly assessing the status of the monarch butterfly is a vast and complex undertaking. It involves significant data collection and analysis across a huge swath of North America. We thank the petitioners for agreeing to the additional time to ensure we get this right.”
While completing the monarch status assessment, the Service will continue to work with a broad range of partners as part of an international initiative to conserve the butterfly across its range. Such efforts have resulted in the planting of millions of milkweed plants – the sole food source of monarch caterpillars – to benefit the monarch and other pollinators.
With completion of the status assessment in December 2020, the Service will determine whether protecting the monarch under the Endangered Species Act is warranted. If so, the Service will publish a proposal to list the species and will seek public input before making a final decision.
“Regardless of the decision, we are committed to conserving the monarch butterfly. Monarchs, bees and other pollinators perform a crucial function that sustains ecosystems and puts food on our tables,” Wooley said.
More information about efforts to save monarchs is available at https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/.
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