Partnering to conserve the monarch butterfly migration
Conservation Professional/Land Manager
As you may already know, monarchs and pollinators at large are in trouble. Threats facing monarchs include pesticide use, climate change, predators, and disease. One of the biggest drivers of their population decline is the loss of habitat. Monarchs use diverse habitats throughout their life cycle, and one of the most critical parts of the cycle (breeding) requires milkweed habitat.
Not only are monarchs a beloved insect across North America, but alongside other pollinators, they provide valuable services that benefit humans and other wildlife. Monarch declines are symptomatic of environmental problems that pose risks to food production, green spaces, and our own health.
We need “all hands on deck” to save the monarchs. Restoring monarch population numbers to a sustainable level will require everyone to be involved. Conservation lands are a critical landscape for bringing back the monarchs. Land managers play a vital role in this national effort. Your contributions to implementing, managing and maintaining this critical habitat are important!
As a land manager, you are probably already contributing to pollinator conservation. Here we highlight various actions you can take to increase your impact.
Habitat Actions for Land Managers
Creating habitat can be as simple as preserving an area of land that is planted with native wildflowers and milkweed. You are the most knowledgeable person about your lands, and using your expertise to develop a long-term management plan and include planting species native to your area will help the habitat thrive.
Other wildlife such as insects, birds, and mammals will benefit from the native habitat you manage. Planting local ecotypes (i.e., native plants sourced near the site) will insure that the genetic makeup of the plants going into your site have the most suitable form, size, growth rate, flowering time, and pest resistance.
A diversity of wildlife as well as ecosystem services (from birds to water quality) benefit from creating habitat for monarchs. There are many opportunities to find common ground with other efforts and leverage financial resources to benefit multiple issues of concern.
Managing invasive species is an important aspect of the installation and maintenance of any habitat project. It can be a daunting task, but you don’t have to go it alone. Many communities have volunteer groups and local conservation organizations that are dedicated to invasive species removal and habitat restoration to help. See resources below for ideas. When treating for invasive species, install native plants post-treatment to prevent the establishment of other invasive species.
Maintaining your habitat on a long-term basis is important to the success of your project, and will reduce expenses over the long run.
Eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides in and around your habitat. Pesticides, especially systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids, will harm monarchs and other beneficial pollinators. This MJV handout gives an overview of the risks of neonicotinoids to pollinators.
Education and Outreach Actions for Public or Conservation Lands
Monarch butterflies provide a memorable experience for visitors to your site. It is evident through increasing public awareness of monarch conservation that this is an important cause, and an opportunity for conservation education at your site. Here are a few examples of ways that you can engage in monarch education and outreach:
Educational opportunities are endless with monarchs! There are many lesson plans, curricula, and activity ideas to implement at your site. Find educational resources and ideas in the Education section of our resources page.
Visitors won’t know and appreciate your conservation work unless you tell them. Help visitors understand habitat restoration by providing signs to designate a work in progress or to provide interpretation about the stage of the restoration process. We have compiled existing Signs and Displays from partners that may be useful for your site.
There is a growing movement and appreciation for native landscapes, especially pollinator habitat. Managing your land to conserve natural resources and pollinators is an important aspect of land stewardship. You can promote this work through community outreach and on-site interpretation. For example, hosting a National Pollinator Week event is a great way to promote your efforts.
There are many opportunities to involve your team and community in citizen science. For a list of monarch citizen science programs, visit MJV’s Citizen Science page.
Stakeholders from all walks of life are coming together around monarchs. Think of non-traditional partners to engage in this effort and bring more attention and resources to conservation.
Growing the right flowers, shrubs, and trees with overlapping bloom times is the single most effective course of action to support pollinators from spring through fall. See these Xerces resources to learn more about pollinator and monarch habitat.
Audubon International and the EDF have teamed up to partner with golf courses across North America to establish habitat for butterflies and increase awareness of conservation challenges in their "Monarchs in the Rough" campaign.
This collection of best management practices for monarchs include milkweed propagation, protection of breeding habitat, and other, broader practices to promote monarch conservation, such as prairie restoration.