Early hopeful signs from California’s plan to bring back monarch butterflies

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Is working on its own butterfly effect to bring back California monarch butterflies.

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Across the state, environmental and nature conservation organizations are working together to create and restore suitable habitat for the butterflies, which in the past migrated to California in the thousands before winter.

Monarch butterfly populations in the region were down 99.9% from three decades ago, with only about 1,900 found during a 2020 survey conducted over the Thanksgiving holiday along the California coast. The Xerces Society, a conservation group based in Portland, Oregon. According to the group, more than 1.2 million monarch butterflies were reported in 1997.


Western monarch butterflies, from the Pacific Northwest and west of the Rocky Mountains, spend the winter along the California coast. Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, said the eastern monarch butterflies, which typically live east of the Rockies and migrate to Mexico for the winter, have seen a population decline of about 80%.

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So far this year, spotters in the western states have seen “a few more monarchs” than last year, Black said, referring to Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper Project.

For example, spotters have seen more than 200 monarchs at Pismo Beach State Park, where the butterfly count was found to be 199 during Thanksgiving last year.

It’s good news, he told USA Today, but still “these are very early numbers so we need to be careful not to read too much into it…”

Making Butterfly Habitat Back, Better

Feather Orville Schell Farms, the owners want to help revive the butterfly population by making ole shale an emperor sanctuary On property just north of San Francisco in Bolinas, California.

His Monarch habitat revitalization plan, created with help from the Xerces Society, includes planting more than 1,200 native nectar-producing flowers, shrubs and grasses. The 206-acre farm is already used to grow apples, blueberries and other fruits and berries, which are sold to a local restaurant, Shell said.

With the help of veteran group Guardian Grange, Shell recently added mulch and planted native flowers suited to butterflies and other pollinating insects. They put up an 8-foot fence to keep deer out of the butterflies’ habitat areas, as well, as deer snack on plants, he said.

A filmmaker whose father tackled corporate farming in his 1984 book, “Modern Meat: Antibiotics, Hormones, and the Pharmaceutical Farm,” Shell fondly remembers Emperors when he was a boy on a free-range ranch and his father Farming was started in the 1970s.

In eucalyptus trees, “you would shake a branch and thousands of them would come out,” he said. “It was so dreamy and magical as a kid. … Now, I don’t see an emperor, in fact, I can only see once or twice a year.”

Scientists and conservationists say habitat expansion, droughts and wildfires have depleted the butterfly’s habitat, and the use of pesticides and herbicides has brought the monarch butterfly to the brink of extinction, also due to climate change. There are some effects.

“Like all ecosystem collapse, the problem is not necessarily one thing, but many things that lead to destruction over time,” said Marc Matzeldellaflor, founder of Guardian Grange, in an Instagram post describing the work done over the weekend of September 11. The group’s work with Orville Schell Farms was recently written by NBC News.

A former Navy SEAL, Matzeldelaflor founded Guardian Grange last year to help veterans reconnect with society while working on projects aimed at protecting natural resources. “Just being outside and being present in nature with other people I think is a very powerful way to reconnect and heal and there’s a lot of untold energy that transpires,” he told USA Today.

Guardian Grange founder Mark Matzeldellaflor is working on a fence at the Orville Shell Farm in Bolinas, Calif.

He said projects like the Monarch Butterfly Preserve help veterans gain energy and be productive. “That’s why I like butterflies,” said Matzeldelaflor. “I look at (it) like dropping a pebble in the pond… if that pebble is positive that creates positive waves. I’m focused on doing as good a thing as possible with other people.”

Monarch Butterfly: Endangered, But Not Officially

Supporters expected the monarch to be declared a threatened or endangered species last year by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. but the service said Butterfly had to wait its turn Since the high priority species were already in line for consideration of being listed under the Endangered Species Act. Official protection would require a national recovery plan for the butterfly.

Some potential legislation may receive funding for projects to promote butterfly conservation. The Xerces Society is backing the Monarch Act of 2021, which has already been introduced in both houses of Congress, to provide $25 million to promote monarchical housing over the next five years. and inside infrastructure bill, a separate Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act of 2021, provides $2 million annually to the Department of Transportation to encourage the growth of pollinator plants along highways.

Meanwhile, earlier this year a statewide Wildlife Conservation Board initiative planted more than 30,000 milkweed plants from north of Sacramento to south of San Diego. The plants serve as a habitat for butterfly eggs, food for monarch caterpillars, and provide natural toxins that make caterpillars and butterflies less appetizing to birds and other predators.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other groups plant milkweed along the Sacramento, Feather, and Kern rivers, San Francisco Chronicle Reported in May. “There couldn’t be a more important time to do this,” said restoration biologist Francis Ulep of the ecology and conservation group. river partner Told the Chronicle.

The milkweed plant is the only place female monarch butterflies lay eggs; The caterpillars feed on the plant. Butterflies live for two weeks to five weeks, so several generations occur during the spring and summer. But butterflies instinctively know their migratory mission.

At Orville Schell Farms, owner Ole Schell wants to help revive the butterfly population by creating a monarch sanctuary on property just north of San Francisco in Bolinas, California.

Shell hopes a network of people interested in supporting the butterfly’s revival will emerge. He said that distinguished homeowners and landlords can also contribute by planting suitable plants in their gardens.

“It’s not a magical process. Anyone willing to work can do it,” said Shell, who said that several people reached out to him recently that he had “a plot of land in my backyard,” Those who want to start helping butterflies. “What can I do?”

His advice: Check with local nurseries that offer native plants. “As long as you do it right you can get some plants and you will see results,” he said. “People have said, ‘I have some plants that I planted there and I’ve seen caterpillars and butterflies come back.’ So, it’s very satisfying.”

Those who cannot plant vegetation suited to the emperor can contribute to the sanctuary. West Marin Monarch Sanctuary Website.

Shell is currently looking for the Emperors. “They overwinter here or they traditionally were in my boyhood,” he said. “Hope that if you build it, they come.”

Contribution: The Associated Press

Follow Mike Snyder on Twitter: @mikesnider.

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