This week Governor Brown of California signed into law a bill authorizing the state to “take feasible actions to conserve monarch butterflies and the unique habitats they depend upon for successful migration.”*
California is the overwintering home for most of the western monarch butterfly population. Hundreds of thousands of monarchs flock to the California coast to cluster together on trees, such as Monterey cypress, Monterey pine and eucalyptus for the winter. Monarchs typically begin arriving at the overwintering sites in California in late October. Citizen Scientist estimates of the western overwintering population, through the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, have shown a significant decline from over one million butterflies in 1997-98 to about 235,000 in 2014-15. Improving and protecting both overwintering and breeding habitat for monarchs in California is vital to the success of the Western population.
Advocates for the western monarchs worked to pass this important legislation, signed into law on October 4th, 2015. It allows the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to act to conserve monarchs, and to forge partnerships to achieve that goal. Thanks to the new law:
- “The department may take feasible actions to conserve monarch butterflies and the unique habitats they depend upon for successful migration. These actions may include, but are not limited to, habitat restoration on department lands, education programs, and voluntary agreements with private landowners.
- The department may partner with federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, academic programs, private landowners, and other entities that undertake actions to conserve monarch butterflies and aid their successful migration, including the Monarch Joint Venture.
- When undertaking actions to conserve monarch butterflies and their habitats pursuant to this section, the department shall use the best available science.”*
Science based goals and considerations outlined for the department include: restoring monarch habitat using locally appropriate native milkweed and nectar plant species; and restoring winter habitat sites to match monarch butterfly preferences by incorporating diverse tree species, structures and arrangements.
California Assemblywoman Patty López authored the bill and says, “By allowing the DFW to take action in the conservation efforts of the Monarch Butterfly, we provide a genuine chance for one of nature’s most majestic creatures to maintain its population.”**
Congratulations to western monarchs, and the conservationists working hard to protect them!
The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the position of all Monarch Joint Venture partners.