Spurred into action by monarch butterflies’ declining numbers, the United States Government launched a $3.2 million campaignyesterday to save these iconic, endangered insects. Monarch numbers have over the past two decades, due to pesticide and herbicide use in agricultural practices, as well as loss of wintering habitats in California and Mexico. This initiative is a desperate attempt to restore pollinator habitat and health: without pollinators, crops don’t get fertilized, and that means no food. For anyone.

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Once so numerous that they could be spotted in just about any field or yard in North America, the Monarch butterfly population has dwindled sharply since the late 1990s. These butterflies serve as indicators of pollinator health, and at the rate that they’ve been dying off, the situation is looking dire. As their wintering habitats down south have been cleared for the sake of farmland, and native wildflower species are pulled out or poisoned away, these vital pollinatorsare at risk of disappearing forever. In an attempt to revitalize their numbers, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has established a Garden for Wildlife program, which encourages gardeners to help pollinators thrive by planting native species, and avoiding the use of chemicals in their yards.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Monarch Watch, Monarch Joint Venture, save the butterflies, monarch butterflies, monarch, monarchs, butterflies, pollinator, pollinators, milkweed

Milkweed is the main food source for Monarchs, and the NWF is asking people across the country to help plant this species around yards, schools, campuses, places of worship, parks, and community gardens in order to create sanctuaries where pollinators can feed and rest safely. The NWF is teaming up with organizations like Monarch Watch, Monarch Joint Venture, and the Xerces Society to source seeds from nurseries across the country to help build habitats “from California to the Corn Belt”.

Related: Monarch butterfly numbers drop to lowest level in recorded history

TheNFWF Monarch Conservation Fund that was launched today has a start-up of $1.2 million, and it’s expected that a matching amount will be sourced from a variety of public and private donors. The goal is to restore 200,000 acres of natural monarch butterfly habitat, and to cultivate hundreds of backyard, schoolyard, and community pollinator gardens. Founders are entreating all Americans (and Canadians!) to help this endeavor by planting milkweed around their homes, and by ditching chemical fertilizers and weed-killers.

+ Monarch Joint Venture – Help Save the Butterflies!

+ National Wildlife Federation