Monarch butterflies and other pollinators are getting a $10 million investment in their health, habitats and numbers from a federal funding package passed at the end of 2022 and recently highlighted by Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, and Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara.
The grant includes $3 million made available through the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Program, created as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021 with the support of Panetta and Carbajal.
The Monarch and Pollinator Highway Program requires the Department of Transportation to provide grants to states, Indian tribes, and federal land management agencies to carry out pollinator-friendly practices on roadsides and highway rights-of-way, including the planting and seeding of native, locally-appropriate grasses, wildflowers, and milkweed. The program would serve to better conserve pollinator habitats and populations.
“The decline of monarch butterfly populations poses a serious threat to our environment, farmers, food supply and the very character of our communities in California,” said Panetta in a press release. “This funding for the newly created Monarch and Pollinator Highway Program is critical to empowering state and local governments to restore the habitats of these essential pollinators. For generations, many Californians, including me and my family, have had the privilege of experiencing the migration of the western monarch butterfly, and providing the funding for more habitats is the least that we can do to ensure survival of this amazing species.”
According to the National Wildlife Federation, an interstate highway may seem an unlikely place to create butterfly habitat, but roadsides have the potential to help monarchs and other wildlife including bees, butterflies, moths, flies and other insects. Long-distance migratory birds such as the ruby-throated hummingbird can use roadside habitats as pit stops for resting and feeding. Scientists even have found small mammals thriving on the edges of highways.
Additional funds signed by President Biden for Fiscal Year 2023 are provided to the Department of the Interior to support western monarchs and other pollinators through the National Wildlife Refuge System, as well as $3 million to support scientific research.
Last Congress, Panetta alongside Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, reintroduced the bipartisan, bicameral Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat Act as well as the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act. Carbajal was a co-lead for both efforts. The leaders plan to reintroduce the MONARCH Act in the 118th Congress which would provide urgent protections for the western monarch butterfly.
It is estimated that monarch butterfly populations have decreased by 95 percent since the 1980s. After nearing historic lows, western monarch populations rebounded from 2,000 butterflies in 2020 to more than 247,000 in 2021.
According to the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper website, Western monarchs aggregate in clusters at forested groves scattered along 620 miles of the Pacific coast from California’s Mendocino County to Baja California, Mexico. Small aggregations inland from the coast have also been reported in Inyo and Kern counties in California and in several sites in Arizona.
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History reports on its Facebook page that at the P.G. Monarch Sanctuary as of Jan. 17, there were 9,758 monarchs at the Sanctuary. “A great number for mid-January, especially after the last storms. We’ll continue to see numbers decrease as the season closes.” Western monarch butterflies are historically in the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary from mid-October through mid-March, with a peak season of November through January.
Source: Montery Herald, January 24, 2023