Western monarchs need everyone’s help. Once, millions of monarchs overwintered along the Pacific coast in California and Baja, Mexico. In the 1980s, it is estimated, at least 4.5 million butterflies migrated to the coast annually. But by the mid-2010s the population had declined to 200,000–300,000 butterflies, and starting in 2018, monarch butterflies had tough seasons in their migratory and breeding grounds in the western states. In the following two winters, the annual Xerces Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count showed that the population hit a new low: In both 2018 and 2019, volunteers counted under 30,000 monarchs—less than 1% of the population’s historic size. In 2020, volunteers counted less than 2,000 monarchs, less than 0.01% of the historic size.
This Western Monarch Call to Action, led by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, aims to provide a set of rapid-response conservation actions that, if applied immediately, can help the western monarch population bounce back from its critically low overwintering size. We recognize and support longer-term recovery efforts in place for western monarchs. The goal of this call to action, however, is to identify actions that can be implemented in the short-term, to avoid a total collapse of the western monarch migration and set the stage for longer-term efforts to have time to start making a difference.
The five key steps to recovering the western monarch population in the short term are:
- Protect and manage California overwintering sites
- Restore breeding and migratory habitat in California
- Protect monarchs and their habitat from pesticides
- Protect, manage, and restore summer breeding and fall migration monarch habitat outside of California
- Answer key research questions about how to best aid western monarch recovery
Click the button below to download the Western Monarch Call to Action and learn more about each of these key steps.
Originally released January 2019; updated January 2021.