After watching the population of the monarch butterfly plummet by as much as 90% in the last 20 years, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it might consider listing the badgered monarch butterfly as an endangered species with a view to placing it under federal protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Consideration, and a research biologist from Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Lincoln Brower – made the move to place the monarch butterfly under federal protection when it became apparent that it is becoming really threatened and endangered.
According to a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, Tierra Curry, “The Endangered Species Act is the most powerful tool available to save North America’s monarchs, so I’m really happy that these amazing butterflies are a step closer to the protection they so desperately need.”
This effort to place the monarch butterfly as either threatened or endangered will offer the general public the opportunity to make comments and offer opinions that will be open for review in the next 60 days.
According to agricultural and research biologists, the greatest threats confronting monarch butterflies emanate from the indiscriminate use of pesticides and the destruction of milkweed habitats. Female monarch butterflies are known to lay their eggs only on milkweed, and since the conversion of about 165 million acres of habitat – roughly the size of Texas – to agricultural use, monarchs have had a hard time surviving without the native wildflower found across the Midwest and parts of the Northland.
With the destruction of milkweed in areas used for corn and soybean farming, and the use of herbicides that destroy milkweed, the lives of monarch butterflies are threatened and even endangered. Most monarchs are born in the Midwest, but the use of genetically engineered crops has given rise to their quick decline across the area.
The Center for Biological Diversity also notes that global warming has a role to play in the decline of the monarchs. These butterflies are known to migrate every year from Mexico to the Northlands and then back again during winter and summer; and they form large clusters on mountains in central Mexico and on some trees covering a few acres, but the unstable weather occasioned by changing temperatures, droughts, heat waves, and severe storms are affecting the ability of the monarch butterfly to survive.
A decline of about 1 billion monarchs in the 1990s to only 35 million in 2013 calls for some concern; and considering the fact that most wintering butterflies in Mexico are eaten by birds and other predators, while a particular storm in 2002 in Mexico killed an estimated 500 million monarchs – it is high time the authorities rose to offer some protection to this ailing and fast declining butterfly population.