Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Iowa group launched to save monarch butterflies

Migratory patterns of monarch butterflies
(Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium map)
Iowa is hoping to assist in the recovery of monarch butterflies by educating its citizens about the species, Donnelle Eller reports for The Des Moines Register. A group called the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, which consists of nearly 40 agriculture, conservation, business, utility and government groups, has released a 135-page plan that "helps provide farmers, backyard gardeners and others with a road map for boosting monarch butterfly habitat in Iowa." Conservationists say the majority of the world's monarchs originate in the Corn Belt.

Monarch numbers fell 90 percent in recent years after reaching 1 billion in 1996. Insecticides and illegal logging in designated habitats are largely blamed for destroying milkweed plants, which are the main source of food for the butterflies. Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started a conservation fund for the butterfly and also announced the first round of grants totaling $3.3 million from the fund.

"In 2014, environmental groups petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act," Eller writes. "The service has until June 2019 to determine whether to add Monarch butterflies. The petitioners say farming in the Midwest is among the reasons for monarch's decline. The petition points to the 'nearly ubiquitous adoption' of glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans for causing 'a precipitous decline of common milkweed, and thus of monarchs, which lay their eggs only on milkweeds.'"

The Iowa consortium includes agri-businesses Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont-Pioneer and Syngenta, Eller writes. The Iowa Office of Farm Service Agency said "about 623,000 acres in Iowa are planted to pollinator habitat through four federal conservation programs. Altogether, Iowa farmers and landowners received $293 million last year to create nearly 1.9 million acres of pollinator habitat. Farmers kicked in $55.3 million."

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