In Honor of Earth Day ~ Xerces Society Letter to President Obama
April 14, 2014
President Barack Obama The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture The Honorable Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior
Dear Mr. President, Mr. Secretary of Agriculture, and Madam Secretary of the Interior,
In light of the severe decline of both the eastern and western monarch butterfly populations that has occurred since the late‐1990s, we are writing to ask you to establish a multi‐agency monarch butterfly recovery initiative to restore the habitats that support the extraordinary migrations of this iconic species. We encourage you to direct the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Forest Service (USFS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the U.S. Department of the Interior to develop a cooperative, landscape‐ level initiative with the many stakeholders willing to help foster significant monarch recovery.
These migrations can be saved for future generations by restoring to the landscape milkweeds, the host plants for monarch caterpillars, and nectar plants that sustain the adult butterflies. These habitats would support pollinators and a large number of other species as well. The federal agencies that incentivize conservation of wildlife habitat on private lands and that directly manage wildlife habitat on public lands can play key roles in this effort by targeting funding and technical support for such an initiative.
As you know, the eastern monarch population has been declining for more than a decade, and this year scientists observed the lowest numbers ever documented, representing a 90% drop from population numbers recorded in the mid‐1990s. Since then, there has been a significant loss of milkweeds in agricultural areas of the Midwest, which is directly correlated with the declining monarch population. Monarch habitat has also declined sharply in the West.
Paul Mirocha Illustration for Monarch Watch
A landscape‐level monarch butterfly recovery initiative led by the NRCS and FSA on private lands would incentivize the planting of native milkweeds and butterfly nectar sources in places that are protected from pesticide and herbicide use.
A similar monarch recovery initiative on public lands, such as USFWS national wildlife refuges and on land managed by the USFS and BLM, would target the planting of tens of thousands of acres of native milkweeds and monarch butterfly nectar sources in areas where they occurred historically but are now absent.
We recommend that a monarch butterfly recovery initiative focus on two broad geographic regions of the United States that include the most important monarch breeding states: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the East; and California, Nevada, and Arizona in the West.
As monarch biologists, pollination ecologists, science educators, farmers and nonprofit leaders, we are grateful that the leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada have already pledged to work together to protect the monarch butterfly and its incredible migration as a symbol of international cooperation. We recognize that the population trends of the monarch butterfly can only be reversed through the collective actions of federal and state government agencies, private landowners, non‐governmental organizations, land trusts, and other land managers.
The Monarch Joint Venture is an existing collaboration of federal and state agencies, university researchers, and conservation organizations that could support such a broader monarch butterfly recovery initiative. The current efforts of this partnership are guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan and directed by a steering committee made up of executives of partner organizations. Building on this partnership structure already in place, we are confident that such an initiative would gain immediate backing from many additional non‐ governmental organizations, universities, corporations, farmer organizations, and private landowners from south Texas to the Canadian border.
We wish to collaborate with you and support your agencies’ efforts to establish an effective initiative for monarch butterfly recovery. We look forward to your response, and thank you in advance for your consideration.
Gary Paul Nabhan, PhD Make Way for Monarchs Patagonia, AZ
Scott Hoffman Black, MS Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation Portland, OR
Karen Oberhauser, PhD Monarch Joint Venture University of MN St. Paul, MN
Chip Taylor, PhD Monarch Watch University of Kansas Lawrence, KS
Sonia Altizer, PhD Project Monarch Health University of Georgia
Lincoln Brower, PhD Sweet Briar College Sweet Briar, VA
Stephen Buchmann, PhD University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
Laura Lopez‐Hoffman, PhD University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
Steven Hopp, PhD Emory and Henry College Emory, VA
Laura Jackson, PhD Tallgrass Prairie Center Cedar Falls, IA
Bonnie L. Harper‐Lore Minnetonka, MN
Sarina Jepsen, MS Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation Portland, OR
Faisal Moola, PhD David Suzuki Foundation Toronto, Ontario, Canada
John Pleasants, PhD Iowa State University, Ames, IA
Diana Post, DVM Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance Silver Spring, MD
Doug Tallamy, PhD University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Mace Vaughan, MS Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation Portland, OR
Ernest Williams, PhD Hamilton College Clinton, NY
Jack L. Algiere Four Seasons Farm Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture Pocantico Hills, NY
Nathalie and David Chambers Madrona Farm Victoria, BC, Canada
Scott Chaskey Peconic Land Trust Quail Hill Farm Amagansett, NY
Tiffany Chan Eden Place Nature Center Chicago, IL
John and Nancy Hayden The Farm Between Jeffersonville, VT
Elizabeth Henderson Peacework Organic Farms, CSA Newark, NY
Michael Howard Eden Place Nature Center Chicago, IL
Paul Kaiser Singing Frogs Farm
David Kline Larksong Farm Fredericksburg, OH
Kyle Kramer Genesis Organic Farm Saint Meinrad, IN
Loretta M. McGrath Pollinator Partners Farm to Table Santa Fe, NM
Susan Preston Owen FARM (Feed All Regardless of Means) Original Mast General Store Valle Crucis, NC
Educators, writers, nature artists, and natural resource NGO leaders:
Laurie Davis Adams Pollinator Partnership San Francisco, CA
Sara St. Antoine Switzer Foundation Fellow Cambridge, MA
Homero Aridjis Grupo de los Cien Michoacán, Mexico
Alison Bauer Fairfax County Schools Arlington, VA
Wendy Caldwell Monarch Joint Venture University of Minnesota St. Paul, MN
Carol Davit Missouri Prairie Foundation Columbia, MO
Alison Hawthorne Deming University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
Betty Ferber, Grupo de los Cien Michoacán, Mexico
Ellen Gunter Oak Park, IL
Nicole Hamilton Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Leesburg, VA
Elizabeth Howard Journey North Norwich, VT
Elizabeth Hunter Bakersville, NC
Paul Mirocha Tumamoc Hill National Landmark Tucson, AZ
Erik Mollenhauer Monarch Teacher Network Mullica Hill, NJ
Gail‐Marie Morris Southwest Monarch Study Chandler, AZ
Trecia E. Neal Fernbank Science Center Atlanta, GA
Janisse Ray University of Montana Missoula, MT
Harriet Shugarman Ridgewood, NJ
Bill Toone ECOLIFE Foundation Escondido, CA
Nina Veteto Monarch Rescue Asheville, NC
Ina Warren Make Way for Monarchs Brevard, NC
Cc: John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Jason Weller, Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Juan M. Garcia, Administrator of the USDA Farm Service Agency Mike Schmidt, Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs, USDA Farm Service Agency Tom Tidwell, Chief of USDA Forest Service Neil Kornze, Principal Deputy Director of the USDI Bureau of Land Management Daniel Ashe, Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Jim Kurth, Chief of National Wildlife Refuge System, US Fish and Wildlife Service