The monarch butterfly population has been in decline for decades, dropping by 95 percent since the 1980s. This massive decline is widely due to the loss of milkweed habitats across the country, which monarchs depend on for breeding. The species faces a June 2019 deadline for an Endangered Species Act listing decision, which will reexamine the monarch population to decide if it can be considered endangered.
Fortunately, there are many who will not simply step aside and allow monarch butterflies to disappear without a fight.
The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange was founded to combat the disappearing monarch population by restoring and conserving as much of their natural habitat as possible. Those involved in the project lovingly refer to it as an “Airbnb for butterflies,” since it is the only program of its kind with the potential to turn large farms and ranches into monarch habitats quickly.
In order to protect monarch butterflies from becoming an endangered species in 2019, millions of acres of native milkweed need to be restored to support a larger monarch butterfly population. The monarch’s migration route is so vast, that one group cannot possibly restore enough milkweed alone.
Because of the enormity of this project, The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange’s focus is on recruiting donors of all varieties, mostly looking to work with food, chemical and seed companies, state farm bureaus, wildlife agencies, and philanthropic organizations, as well as any concerned citizens willing to donate.
Smithfield Foods, an international food company, is the first food company to get involved with this project, pledging 300,000 dollars to restore large prairie habitats for the monarch butterflies in Missouri. Kraig Westerbeek, senior director of Smithfield Renewables and Hog Production Division Environmental Affairs for Smithfield Foods spoke about their involvement with this project. “Participating in the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is a commitment to our employees, our producers, and our customers who care about wildlife and the multiple other environmental benefits that this program will achieve.”
One of the main aspects that will make this project a success is getting farmers and ranchers involved. Since agricultural lands make up almost half of the acreage necessary to repopulate the monarch species, getting the owners of these private lands on board would be the ultimate game changer for the fate of these butterflies.
Amy Greer, a sixth generation rancher in Texas, has already jumped in to participate in the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange. They have agreed to use their large acreage to reestablish native milkweed and wildflowers to benefit monarchs on her family ranch.
With such an iconic butterfly species close to making the endangered species list, it is time to ban together to prevent another beloved creature disappear from our ecosystems forever. Citizens are encouraged to donate to the cause and keep these vibrant butterflies alive in our backyards for a long time.
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