Monarch butterfly projects receive $3.3 million in grants

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2015 - The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded $3.3 million in Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund grants to help restore up to 33,000 acres of key monarch habitat, propagate over a half-billion milkweed and other nectaring seedings, and create 24 full-time positions for monarch conservation work.

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The 22 grantees will bring an additional $6.7 million in private investment to the table to maximize the impact of their projects. The grant funding was provided by NFWF, USDA and Interior Department agencies, and Monsanto, a major seed and agrochemical company.

“Our belief is that agriculture plays a critical role in conservation,” said Phil Miller, vice president of global government and regulatory affairs for Monsanto, at today's Washington, D.C., press conference. “We believe that environmental sustainability, as well as increased land productivity are two compatible objectives,” he continued, and “we are committed to staying the course and being a partner in this to see the monarch butterfly rebound.”

According to NFWF, a congressionally chartered non-profit that serves the interests of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the North American monarch population has “plunged” from 1 billion to 60 million over the last 20 years, largely due to habitat loss.

Last winter, about 30 million monarchs overwintered in Mexico, and this year, FWS Director Dan Ashe suspects there will be more than 60 million, proving that monarchs are “responding” to habitat enhancement and restoration.

“I'm confident that we're going to see further progress with the monarch butterfly,” Ashe told reporters. And that progress will further underpin the idea that “we can continue to expand our ability to produce abundant, affordable, healthy foods and fiber for America and the world, and we can do that in a way that takes care of an iconic species of wildlife,” Ashe said.

Tom Tidwell, the chief of the U.S. Forest Service, said the Obama administration's goal to raise monarch numbers to 225 million by 2020 is entirely achievable with private public partnerships like this one.

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