Scientists, Farmers and Educators Ask the President and Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to Jump Start Recovery of Monarch Butterflies


April 14, 2014

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:
Scott Hoffman Black, (503) 449-3792, [email protected]

Make Way for Monarchs:
Gary Paul Nabhan, (928) 225-0293, [email protected]
or Ina Warren, (828) 333-2585, [email protected]

Scientists, Farmers and Educators Ask the President and Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to Jump Start Recovery of Monarch Butterflies

PATAGONIA, Ariz.—In a letter delivered to the White House on Monday, leading monarch scientists, farmers, and educators asked President Obama and the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to direct five federal agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Farm Service Agency and Bureau of Land Management, to establish a monarch butterfly recovery initiative to restore habitat for this species on both public and private lands.

Monarch butterfly numbers have declined by 90% over the last two decades, and the loss of milkweed—the necessary host plant for monarch caterpillars—is one of the key factors responsible for the decline. This initiative will restore milkweed, monarch nectar plants and pesticide-free areas to the landscape.

“To avoid further monarch declines,” noted Make Way for Monarchs cofounder, Gary Nabhan, “we need to support farmers and public land managers to plant milkweeds and other native wildflowers on 10 to 20 million acres over the coming years.”

While monarch butterflies drink nectar for nourishment from thousands of different species of native and cultivated flowers, the foliage of milkweed is the only food source on which monarch caterpillars can feed. Without milkweed, there will be no monarchs.

“Farmers and ranchers can be engaged and given financial incentives so that they can be part of the solution to bring back this iconic butterfly,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Pollinators like monarchs provide essential services that ensure food security and farmland health.”

The habitat restoration efforts that benefit Monarch butterflies typically also benefit bees, game birds and other wildlife, according to Chip Taylor, founder of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

The letter was sent in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson’s death. This broad-based initiative will support and further the existing work of the Xerces Society, Monarch Joint Venture, Monarch Watch, Journey North, Monarch Teacher Network, Project Monarch Health, Pollinator Partnership and other organizations working to conserve the monarch and its incredible migration.

“This is a win-win strategy to restore monarchs and other pollinators that benefit our food supply and the health of our landscapes. It can involve multiple stakeholders to forge positive solutions through the process of collaborative conservation,” Nabhan said.


Photo of monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) taken by Eric Eldredge, USDA NRCS Great Basin Plant Materials Center.



Read the letter delivered to the White House:

Read more about Xerces’ Monarch Conservation Campaign, including efforts to conserve overwintering sites in California and restore breeding habitat in key regions of the United States:

Learn about Project Milkweed, which is working with agencies and private seed companies to develop regional sources of native milkweed seed:

To find suppliers of milkweed seeds:

Protecting the Life that Sustains Us

The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Since 1971, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate protection, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs worldwide. To learn more about our work, please visit