Managing Monarchs in the West

Best Management Practices for Conserving the Monarch Butterfly and its Habitat

Monarch butterflies in western North America are in trouble. What was once a huge number of monarchs that converged on overwintering sites in coastal California has dwindled year after year. The number of butterflies has fallen by over 95% since the 1980s, with declines also observed in breeding populations during the spring and summer. With monarch numbers dipping so low, more and more people are wondering what they can do to help recover the butterfly and milkweed—its host plant—across the West.

To guide conservation efforts, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has published Managing for Monarchs in the West: Best Management Practices for Conserving the Monarch Butterfly and its Habitat. This document combines the best-available science with land manager knowledge to provide recommendations for managing monarch breeding and migratory habitat.

Managing for Monarchs in the West provides a summary of the known effects of frequently used land management practices—grazing, mowing, prescribed fire, and pesticides—on monarchs and their breeding and migratory habitat, followed by best management practices (BMPs) for how to integrate monarch conservation in management decisions. Guidance on timing management activities gives managers the confidence of when they can mow, burn, or graze land without disrupting breeding monarchs. Invasive non-native and noxious plant management, recreation, and climate change impacts are also addressed.

To help reverse the western monarchs’ population trend, we need to improve protection and management of the butterfly’s habitat across its range—especially on public lands. These BMPs provide actionable, practical guidance that empowers western land managers to be part of the solution. Download this guide as a free PDF here.

Also Available – Timing Management in Monarch Breeding Habitat Fact Sheet

In addition to the BMPs, we’ve prepared a simple fact sheet to help guide management timing in breeding habitat – available for download here.




Sign up for our newsletter to receive up to date information about our programs and events.

Contact Us

Email us with your questions and comments about monarch conservation.

Plant Milkweed Seed!

Milkweeds support monarch butterflies, native bees, honey bees, and other beneficial insects. Search for sources of milkweed seed now!

Take Action!
Sign the Pledge!

Sign the pledge and take action to help protect pollinators and their essential habitats! Learn more.

Pollinator Conservation Resource Center

The Resource Center is where you can find regional information about plant lists, habitat conservation guides, and more. Learn more.

Monarch Conservation News
  • Pollinator Conservation Program Digest – December 2018

  • Early Thanksgiving Counts Show a Critically Low Monarch Population in California

  • Western Monarch Numbers Expected to Be Low this Year

  • The Striking Beauty of Oklahoma’s Butterflies

  • Keep Monarchs Wild!

  • Newly released monarch overwintering site management plan provides blueprint for protecting and managing monarch groves

  • Gardening for Butterflies
    Gardening for Butterflies
    Our newest book introduces you to a variety of butterflies who need our help, and provides suggestions for native plants to attract them, habitat designs to help them thrive, and garden practices to accommodate all their stages of life. Click here to read more
    On Captive Breeding and Release of Monarchs
    OE infected monarch
    Following news of the dramatic decline in monarch numbers, some people are rearing large numbers of monarchs in backyard operations or obtaining them from commercial breeders or other organizations and releasing them with the goal of supplementing local populations. But are such efforts doing more harm than good? Click here to read more