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USDA launches conservation effort to help Monarch butterflies

Photo by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson.

This new effort by the USDA will help Agricultural producers provide food and habitat for monarch butterflies in the Midwest and southern Great Plains.
Leonard Jordan is USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Associate Chief.
He says this targeted 10-state effort will invest $4 million in 2016 to help combat the iconic species’ decline.

“So those are the ten states again that are in the heart of the migration route and recognizing again that these are travelling species, so we want to make sure that they have the right food species that they can feed on that they can get that energy that they need to continue their path,” Jordan said.

N-R-C-S will help Midwest and southern Great Plains farmers and ranchers plant milkweed and nectar rich plants to attract these pollinators.

“They are a key component to that contribution to crop production. And so we feel that we need to induce the right plants and the right species to enhance the return or the increase of the Monarch and stop the decline, Jordan said.

In addition to attracting monarch butterflies, Jordan says it’s hoped other pollinators will be attracted by the planting efforts.

“Along with the benefits to the monarch, they also provide benefits to honeybees and other native bees that contribute significantly to the pollination process,” Jordan said.

Monarch butterflies are known for their annual migration from central Mexico to as far north as Canada. Their populations have declined significantly over the past two decades. NRCS’ effort contributes to a multi-agency, international strategy to increase the eastern population of monarchs to 225 million by 2020.

Bob Ellison with the USDA contributed to this report.