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Government to Spend Millions to Save Monarch

Feb 10, 2015 12:51 PM EST
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The federal government is stepping up to save the declining monarch butterfly, announcing Monday its plan to spend $3.2 million on habitat restoration for the species.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), hopes to bring back a butterfly whose population has seen a 90 percent decline in recent years.

In accordance with the new agreement, some $2 million will go towards immediate on the ground conservation projects throughout the United States, while another $1.2 million will be put in a NFWF Monarch Conservation Fund that will be matched by public and private donors.

Just 20 years ago the monarch butterfly numbered in the billions, and now their population has been decimated to the point that officials are considering granting them federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. This is the result of numerous threats at play, especially habitat loss and herbicide loss, which has destroyed milkweed plants, their main food source.

"We can save the monarch butterfly in North America, but only if we act quickly and together," FWS Director Dan Ashe said in a press release. "And that is why we are excited to be working with the National Wildlife Federation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to engage Americans everywhere, from schools and community groups to corporations and governments, in protecting and restoring habitat. Together we can create oases for monarchs in communities across the country."

Officials had previously enlisted help from concerned citizens, particularly backyard gardeners, to save these iconic butterflies. Authorities asked people to plant native milkweeds, however, these good intentions went awry, inadvertently trapping and exposing these near-endangered insects to harmful parasites when gardeners began planting the wrong kind.

Only about 35 million monarchs remain, less and less of them seen each year migrating the 2,500 miles to their wintering habitat in Mexico. And while efforts thus far have failed to boost the numbers of these beleaguered butterflies, conservationists hope this new plan is the answer to their prayers.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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