The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a new conservation effort to help farmers in Indiana and nine other states provide food and habitat for monarch butterflies. This targeted effort in the Midwest and southern Great Plains by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $4 million in 2016 to help combat the decline of this iconic species. The orange-and-black butterflies are known for their annual, multi-generational migration from central Mexico to as far north as Canada. Monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants like milkweed – the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars.
Examples of conservation improvements include buffer habitats, cover crops and better pasture management practices which help reduce erosion, increase soil health, inhibit the expansion of invasive species and provide food and habitat for insects and wildlife.
This effort by NRCS contributes to a multi-agency, international strategy to reverse the monarch’s population decline in North America, estimated to have decreased from one billion butterflies in 1995 down to about 34 million today. The National Strategy to Protect Pollinators and Their Habitat has a goal of increasing the eastern population of monarchs back up to 225 million by 2020.
Source: Washington Times Herald