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Monarchs on the brink

Feb 17, 2015 09:58AM ● Published by Erica Shames

John Muir once said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

So true for the exquisite monarch butterfly, which finds itself inextricably hitched to the milkweed plant. Without the milkweed, the monarch cannot survive, and that’s what is happening. Two decades of habitat loss, primarily due to the eradication of milkweed with herbicides on agricultural lands, has led to about 970 million monarchs disappearing—nearly 90 percent of the species. Today, only about 30 million monarchs remain.

Hoping to rebuild the population through a concerted planting and education effort, just this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to find spaces to plant as much milkweed as possible.

Funded by $2 million for conservation projects, the effort includes providing seeds to anyone willing to plant milkweed along roadsides and in parks, forests, even backyards.

The federation will use another $1.2 million to generate a larger fundraising match from private organizations. Fish and Wildlife will create 200,000 acres of habitat along the Interstate 35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, where 50 percent of monarchs migrate and will encourage other federal and state agencies to do the same on public lands. For more information on the project, visit the Fish and Wildlife’s Save the Monarch initiative Web site at fws.gov/savethemonarch.

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