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.

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Western Monarchs in Crisis
Save Western Monarchs!

The western monarch migration is on the verge of collapse. Learn more, including how to help.

Help Save Monarchs: Plant Milkweed!


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

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
  • Western Monarch Ecology and Conservation – San Francisco, CA

  • New Year’s Count of Western Monarchs Confirms Decline, Trends Seen in Previous Years

  • Monarch Butterflies in Western North America in Jeopardy

  • Record Low Number of Overwintering Monarch Butterflies in California—They Need Your Help!

  • Pollinator Conservation Program Digest – December 2018

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

  • 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