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New Push Underway To Get Embattled Monarch Butterflies On Endangered Species List

(Photo courtesy Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity)
The western population of the Monarch butterfly is down 99% from two decades ago. There's a new push underway to get them on the Endangered Species List.

They’re among the most majestic butterflies on the world, and part of the year, they call the Central and South Coasts home.  You can find them in groves in Goleta and Pismo Beach.  But, biologists say the species is currently in danger of extinction.

Tierra Curry is a Senior Scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Curry talks about the issues facing the monarchs.  They include loss of milkweed plants which are essential for the reproduction, pesticides, climate change.  And, some people trying to help the butterflies have actually hurt them.   They’ve planted milkweed, but the wrong kind.  For some reason, the monarch like the other version of it so much that they want to stay, instead of continuing on with their migration.

Because of the threat to the monarchs, advocates pushed for them to be added to the Endangered Species List.  But, in December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided against the action, putting them on a standby list.

The scientist says it’s staggering that the monarchs aren’t getting the protections they need.  She says the West Coast population has dropped by 99% in the past two decades.

Curry says what these butterflies do is amazing.  They instinctively migrate to places they’ve never been before.  The Western population flies from the Rockies, and Canada as cold weather approaches to the California Coast, where they will stay from November until February. 

The female monarchs then start fly north.  They will breed, and lay eggs on milkweed plants.  The eggs hatch, become caterpillars, and morph into butterflies.  The summer butterflies only live a few weeks, but go through the whole process over and over until a generation of the butterflies finally makes it back to where they started:

But, there is new hope for human help.  A coalition of congressional leaders, including Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara, is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider.

Curry is optimistic.  She says the Biden Administration has put the monarchs on its priority list for review.

Advocates of adding the monarchs to the Endangered Species List point out that some species have been on the waiting list for decades, and say nearly 50 have gone extinct while in that limbo.