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Monarch fueling up for migration. Photo by Lilibeth Serrano, USFWS.

Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Habitat Council partner to save monarchs

Monarch populations have drastically declined over the past several years.  To advance efforts to save this beautiful orange and black butterfly and its habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) are joining forces with a new cooperative agreement over the next two years to benefit the Monarch butterfly.

Since 1988, WHC has promoted habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education.  Through a focus on building collaboration for conservation with corporate employees, other conservation organizations, government agencies and community members, WHC programs focus on healthy ecosystems and connected communities. WHC wildlife habitat and conservation education programs are found in 44 states and 13 countries.

“In 1996, more than one billion Monarchs completed their annual migration from Mexico to their breeding grounds in the Midwest.  Now, less than two decades later, we recorded the lowest wintering population of just over 30 million butterflies,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director.  “The Service values our long-standing partnership with the Wildlife Habitat Council, and this agreement gives us an opportunity to restore much needed Monarch habitat throughout the Southeast.  The agreement embodies our way of working with conservation partners, private landowners, the business community and others to conserve Southeastern wildlife.  We know this collaborative effort will foster more public-private partnerships throughout the Monarch’s range.”

An example of a current WHC–sponsored Monarch project involves Mississippi State University and the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, Inc.  A native pollinator site was created on about six acres of land to increase plant and wildlife populations like the Monarch butterfly and its food sources of butterfly milkweed and common milkweed.

Under the new Monarch cooperative agreement with the Service, WHC will coordinate with its corporate members to restore Monarch habitat by planting milkweed, native warm season grass, wildflower meadows, and other plants beneficial to pollinators.   WHC also will encourage wildlife teams to educate communities about Monarchs and other pollinator species and their needs.  The Service will provide $50,000 in funding to support coordination efforts as well as on-the-ground technical assistance from several field offices.

The Southeast is a crucial migration corridor for the Monarch as it travels up to 3,000 miles from its wintering grounds in Mexico to breeding grounds in the Midwest, the only butterfly in North America to make such a migration.  During spring and fall migration, Monarchs stop in the prairies, savannas, and backyard gardens of the southeast.

Efforts will take place throughout the Southeast, and will focus particularly on Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.

“The Wildlife Habitat Council is proud to partner with the Fish and Wildlife Service and utilize the almost 200 Council conservation programs located in the Southeast to increase the quality and quantity of Monarch habitat,” said Sara Barnas, WHC’s Southeastern biologist and project lead. “Our goal is to not only advance awareness of the Monarch population and habitat decline, but create credible, measurable conservation outcomes that can ultimately be reported as a global contribution from the private sector to aid in efforts to save the Monarch.”


Elsie Davis, USFWS, 404-679-7107

Monica Keller, WHC, 240-247-0930

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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