Managing Monarchs in the West

Best Management Practices for Conserving the Monarch Butterfly and its Habitat


Monarch butterflies in western North America are in dire straits. In the 1980s, 4.5 million monarchs converged on overwintering sites, and in a matter of decades, that number has dropped dramatically, with declines also observed in breeding populations during the spring and summer. As of January 2019, a new record low for the overwintering population was documented: 28,429 monarchs. This marks a decline of 99.4% from historic levels, and puts the western monarch migration at risk for extinction.
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.

Mowing and Management: Best Practices for Monarchs

In collaboration with Monarch Joint Venture, we have created this fact sheet to help land managers time management practices like burning, mowing, grazing, or targeted pesticide application when they are least likely to harm monarchs. Available for download here.