Hope for Monarchs – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Local monarch advocates say the decision to list monarch butterflies as endangered was the right one, but they see reason for optimism

Robert Coffan has a male monarch butterfly ready to fly. [Courtesy photo]

Robert Coffan has a male monarch butterfly ready to fly. [Courtesy photo]

Local advocates for monarch butterflies and other pollinators applauded the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s announcement to place migratory monarch butterflies on its “red list,” deeming them endangered .

Although the distinction has a different meaning than under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which could come next, locals hope the international distinction will help underscore the need for increased efforts to conservation to protect and expand habitat and reduce pesticide use.

A subspecies of the monarch butterfly, the migratory monarch is known for its migrations from Mexico and California in the winter to summer breeding grounds in the United States and Canada. The population has decreased over the last decade by between 22% and 72%.

According to the IUCN, legal and illegal logging and deforestation have destroyed critical winter refuges in Mexico and California, while pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture across the range kill butterflies and milkweeds, the host plant on which the larvae of the monarch butterfly feed.

At the highest risk of extinction, the western population of migratory monarchs has declined by an estimated 99.9%, from up to 10 million to 1,914 butterflies, between the 1980s and 2021, according to IUCN statistics.

The larger eastern population also declined by 84% between 1996 and 2014.

Robert Coffan, a Medford resident and president of the Western Monarch Advocates, said any protection for migrating monarchs is helpful. Colorful insects were considered for ESA listing two years ago, but have not yet been listed for a handful of reasons, Coffan explained.

“In December 2020, Fish and Wildlife said we should add the monarch butterfly to the endangered and threatened species list,” he said.

“So, yes, it’s warranted and should be on the list, but for now, it’s prevented because of the work that’s being done on some higher priority listings.”

Stacy Carlson, communications coordinator for the Monarch Joint Venture, said the IUCN listing could help improve the case for listing in the US.

“We are hopeful that when Fish and Wildlife next reviews the status of monarchs in 2024, they will list it under the Endangered Species Act,” he said.

“The IUCN is not related to the Endangered Species Act; however, it is a well-respected global network of scientists and conservationists, and its assessment only helps the conservation effort in terms of momentum.”

Sharon Schmidt, president of the Phoenix chapter for Bee City USA, said she hopes increased awareness of the plight of migratory butterflies will spur change, big and small.

“I think it is very important that it is declared endangered. We need monarchs. If you follow the food chain, they’re a very important pollination source and a very important dietary source for birds,” Schmidt said.

“It’s very scary to think that the entire population has been substantially decimated.”

Schmidt encouraged the planting of pollinator gardens: milkweed to feed caterpillars and specific nectar plants to feed butterflies and other pollinators.

“The monarch butterfly, in a way, is like the poster child for survival for all of us — animals and people. If they’re in trouble, we’re all in trouble,” he said.

One glimmer of hope, Coffan said, is that researchers had noted a recent, small uptick in migrating monarchs in the western United States.

“The good news is that we’re seeing a small uptick in our Western Monarch population. It’s actually a little surprising because the numbers had dropped to a population of 2,000. It had dropped from 20,000 to 2,000 two years ago. winters. The winter count was so low that it was extremely alarming,” he said.

“But then something really amazing happened. They saw that the count had gone up to 240,000.”

“Biologically, people say that’s not really possible — the math just doesn’t add up,” Coffan added. “How did this happen? The scientific community is all over the place about what’s going on, but obviously everyone is very happy that there seems to be some sort of rebound.”

Coffan said western monarchs were now showing up all over the West Coast, a hopeful sign for survival.

“We’re seeing that, right now, in the middle of summer, these monarchs and their offspring somehow managed to recover in every western state, with two found in British Columbia,” Coffan said.

“Not only did they fly, but they found each other, mated, laid eggs, had another generation and continued the migration. We’re far out of the woods, but I’d say it’s definitely a real sign of hope.”

To learn more, see westernmonarchadvocates.com/ i facebook.com/groups/2040486716061532/

Contact reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or bpollock@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.

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