February 10 – Walking On Air

Today’s factismal: The US government has begun a $3.2 million program to help save the Monarch Butterfly!

Today there is good news out of Washington, DC! The US Fish and Wildlife Service has begun a $3,200,000 program to help save the Monarch Butterfly. Before we get into the details of the program, let’s get the obvious out of the way: yes, this is needed. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Monarch butterflies fly from where they were born to a place they have never seen in order to lay their eggs. Even better, Monarchs can act as an early warning system of environmental changes. And, of course, it is just plain pretty. But lately there’s been something wrong with the Monarch butterfly ; where there used to be billions of them winging their way each year, now we have just a few hundred thousand. We don’t know why the population has declined and if it is permanent. Is it climate change? Is it changes in land use? Is it due to parasites? Is it a natural fluctuation? We simply don’t have enough information to decide.

Monarch population over the years [Data from Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONAP)]

Monarch population over the years
[Data from Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONAP)]

But given the strong decline in the number of Monarchs, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has taken the first step in helping to preserve the species. They’ll spend some $2 million on restoring habitat for the Monarch by planting milkweed and other native plants in more than 200,000 acres spread from California to Iowa to Ohio to Arkansas to Texas; everywhere that Monarchs fly will see an upgrade. They’ll also work with more than 750 schools to plant butterfly gardens to be used by the butterflies as a spot to rest, to east, and to lay their eggs and by the teachers and students as a place to observe the wonders of nature close-up. The rest of the money will create a conservation fund to encourage farmers and landowners to preserve natural habitats.

A Monarch after a rain shower  (Image courtesy Journey North)

Will the Monarch soon be no more? (Image courtesy Journey North)

If you don’t want to wait for the government to solve the problem, why not plant some milkweed for the Monarchs in your neighborhood to feast on? Despite the name, milkweeds are beautiful and colorful plants that can brighten up any garden. To order seeds, head to your nearest nursery or flit your browser to:
http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm

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