Western wildlife association adopts conservation plan to save monarchs

January 26, 2019

An association of Western fish and wildlife agencies has reacted to the alarming news of monarch butterfly population decline by adopting a new conservation plan.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has adopted the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan that establishes population size, habitat and actions to help monarch butterflies that overwinter along the California coast and spend spring and summer in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Utah.

The plan was adopted Jan. 5 at the association’s mid-winter meeting held in Tucson, Ariz.

“The monarch butterfly is an iconic species in North America and its annual migration cycle is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena in the world,” the association said in a news release. “However, over the past 20 years, the monarch butterfly population has declined by more than 80 percent throughout much of its range.”

Last week, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., issued a report that showed the population of monarch butterflies overwintering in California had fallen to the lowest level ever recorded. The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count found only 28,429 butterflies, an 86 percent fall from the previous year and a 99.4 percent decline from numbers counted in the 1980s. Overwintering butterflies in central and Southern California numbered about 4.5 million in the 1980s.

The Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan has a population objective to achieve a five-year running average of 500,000 monarchs, counted at 75 sites, by 2029. Other goals include creating an additional 50,000 acres of monarch-friendly habitat in California’s Central Valley and adjacent foothills and protecting established overwintering sites.

“This conservation plan is a great opportunity for Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the member states within the range of the western population of monarchs to work collaboratively with our conservation partners,” said Bill Van Pelt, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Grassland Coordinator.

A copy of the conservation plan can be seen at www.wafwa.org.