Monarch butterfly conservation is in full effect as numerous organizations have shared concerns for the beautiful butterfly. The number of monarch butterflies observed at 97 sites in 2018 was dramatically lower than ever before, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, an organization that monitors monarch butterfly populations. In fact, the numbers dropped as much as 86 percent. That’s a startling statistic and is much higher than scientists expected it be. Worse yet, looking back twenty to thirty years, the records showed a population around 4.5 million, which means the rate has been rapidly declining for decades. The numbers have plummeted so dramatically, that it has now become a race to save the vanishing species.
Fortunately for the Eastern and Western monarch butterfly, there are several groups fighting for their survival. When it comes to increasing numbers and monarch butterfly conservation, the focus is splintered, working simultaneously to improve natural habitat alongside evaluating the health of the butterfly population. Here are some notable organizations and a highlight of their efforts to help the monarch butterflies.
Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates (SOMA)
The largest monarch habitat restoration projects in the western U.S., beginning in 2017 and continuing today, is taking place in the backyard of SOMA and they’ve played a key role in its success. Covering over 300 acres across Southern Oregon, the Southwest Oregon Pollinator Collaborative Project is working towards rebuilding pivotal habitats for the insects. For their part, SOMA placed over 7,000 plants over 40 acres in the Sampson Creek Preserve in the hopes of attracting and populating the butterflies.
This project was one of the most recent of several, representing nearly five years of hands-on habitat restoration and community education. In 2015, the group began developing waystations for the butterflies — the largest of which is located at an appealing creekside location at Coyote Trails School of Nature in Medford, Oregon.
Relying on the suggestions of published experts in the field, the SOMA group establishes plants well known as butterfly attractants, such as milkweed and other nectar-bearing plants. They also distribute seeds to encourage backyard planting and offer community outreach to several organizations with similar interests.
Based out of the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch promotes education pertaining to the monarch butterfly. They strive to inform the public about the life cycle and breeding of the species in an effort to encourage public involvement in the cause. In addition, the group also engages in research to better understand their biology and migration patterns. Monarch Watch also promotes the protection of known habitats and assists with the development of potential new habitats for the species.
The website offers resources for the community and classrooms, such as a list of research projects that students can undertake along with information on how to rear monarchs. Monarch Watch feels that in order for the public to help, they need to have a better understanding of the issues so they provide information about how human activities such as infrastructure development decimates the natural habitat of the butterfly. They report that both overwintering and summer habitats are at risk due to human activities such as logging trees (known to aid the monarch) and building within the few known migration sites through Mexico and California.
Journey North is another organization focused on saving the monarch butterfly. For twenty five years, Journey North has worked to maintain reliable resources for educators and the public.
As an online citizen science program, they encourage teachers, scientists, members of the community and nature centers to report sightings so they can maintain a realtime database of monarch locations and numbers. This information is then mapped as waves of migrations move across the continent.
The more people they involve, the more information they can gather. With a focus on “ecologically-sustainable relationships between people and the land through integrative, innovative, and collaborative science, stewardship, education, and public engagement,” community involvement is at the core of their mission.
Monarch Joint Venture (MJV)
The Monarch Joint Venture is an example of private and governmental organization coming together in an effort to conserve the monarch butterfly. More than 70 partners are part of the joint venture, all with the goal of “implementing science-based habitat conservation and restoration measures” to protect the migration of the butterfly.
With a vast network of resources from all levels of stakeholders, the Monarch Joint Venture culminates all the information gathered and produces an annual report called the Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan that outlines the best conservation and habitat planning techniques for organizations making the effort to protect nesting grounds, build habitats and work to better understand the species and their needs.
To further coordinate the efforts of this diverse group of like-minded organizations, the MJV maintains a visual map database of ongoing projects so people can connect with others in their area. Financially, the MJV also allocates funds to different conservation projects across the lower 48 states.
As with all monarch conservation organizations, MJV works to provide information about the species, including their needs, biology, habitat, habits, migratory patterns, etc. so they facilitate an organized webinar series on the topic.
Reports across the board support the knowledge that the monarch butterfly has become dangerously threatened. Organizations like those above agree that saving the species will require a coordinated effort of educators, scientists and the public from Mexico and up the west coast to Canada.