AMES, Iowa — The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium today released a statewide strategy to support monarch butterfly recovery in Iowa and North America, available at www.iowamonarchs.info.
The strategy — developed by the consortium — guides the implementation and documentation of a voluntary, statewide effort based on the best available science. The consortium is a diverse group of more than 30 collaborators, including agricultural and conservation organizations, agribusiness and utility companies, county associations, universities and state and federal agencies.
The science-based strategy fosters habitat improvements in rural landscapes that:
- coincide with agricultural production;
- are sufficient in scale to support improved monarch breeding success; and
- complement other conservation programs.
The Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy lays the foundation for the adoption of conservation practices. Immediate conservation measures include using resources in farm bill programs to establish monarch breeding habitat; volunteering to establish monarch habitat on farms in consortium-sponsored demonstration projects; using monarch-friendly weed management in ditches, roadsides and other rights-of-way; and establishing monarch way stations with native nectar plants and milkweeds in home and community gardens.
“Through creation of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium and the development of this strategy, Iowa is a leader in working collaboratively to expand monarch habitat and increase the monarch population,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. “The state-led strategy provides Iowans with additional resources to increase monarch conservation efforts.”
A recent report from Mexico found the monarch butterfly population at overwintering sites dropped 27 percent this year. Over the past two decades, the monarch population has declined by approximately 80 percent.
Roughly 40 percent of all monarch butterflies that overwinter in Mexico are estimated to come from Iowa and neighboring Midwestern states. Expanding monarch habitat in Iowa will play a major role in the recovery of the species.
“We didn’t get to this point overnight, and we aren’t going to improve the population overnight. But we have a really strong group across many different areas of expertise working together to improve the outlook for the monarch in Iowa and beyond,” said Chuck Gipp, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Monarch butterflies face many challenges including the loss of milkweed and nectar plant habitat in its spring and summer breeding ranges. Female monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and the hatched caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act. The service has until June 2019 to determine whether or not to list the species, a decision that will rest in part on progress made by farmers, agricultural stakeholders, other private landowners and conservationists in implementing effective voluntary conservation efforts.
“This strategy is critical to rally Iowa agriculture, landowners and citizens to continue to make progress in restoring monarch habitat,” said Wendy Wintersteen, endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University. “Our research, extension and outreach programs, in coordination with regional and national efforts, ensures these conservation measures are based on the best available scientific knowledge.”
The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium formed in 2015 in response to monarch population declines. More information about consortium members, partners and the strategy is available at www.iowamonarchs.info.