We feature monarch butterflies in our pages to highlight conservation challenges, and milkweed is often part of the story. Claire Fahy’s story below reminds me that the link between the insect and the plant, and the effort in California to repair that link, is one example of why we created, and why I continue to post on, this platform. A short statement of purpose might be something like: in hope there is meaning. June 15 will mark the 10th anniversary of the first post, and I intend to start the next decade with a more regular series on our regeneration efforts on a few acres of land here in Costa Rica. Because it provides a sense of meaning, among other reasons. So we thank those in California who are doing the same on a 200x scale:
A coalition of conservation groups have partnered with the state to add 30,000 milkweed plants in an attempt to restore the species’ population.
Known for their windowpane wing design and bright orange color, Western monarch butterflies add a dash of magic to the California coast, where they spend the winter. Now a coalition of conservation groups, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the environmentalist organization River Partners are working together to extend a lifeline to the monarchs, whose population has been dwindling drastically.
The groups have embarked on an effort to add 30,000 milkweed plants across the state to provide the butterflies with places to breed and acquire the sustenance for migration.
The Western monarchs’ California population has fallen 99 percent since the 1980s, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. A major factor in that drop has been a decline in milkweed caused by farming and pesticide use. Milkweed is vital to monarchs as a place to lay eggs and as a food source for their caterpillars.
Monarch butterflies do something called “overwintering” on the coast of California — spending time there from October to March before migrating farther inland to breed.
Every year around Thanksgiving, volunteers count the migrating monarchs at the coastal overwintering sites, said Cheryl Schultz, a biology professor at Washington State University who works with the River Partners project. In 2019, 29,000 butterflies overwintered in California. A year later, that number was just 2,000, she said.
In response, California put forward a $1 million state-funded initiative to restore the Western monarchs’ natural habitat — and hopefully the population itself — by planting 600 acres of milkweed statewide…
Read the whole story here.