NRCS to roll out monarch butterfly conservation initiative
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2015 - USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will launch a $4 million initiative in 2016 to create and enhance habitat for monarch butterflies on private lands across 10 states.
“Today, the iconic monarch butterfly is under pressure. Habitat loss has led to a steady decrease in their numbers,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said in a USDA blog post Thursday. “We're working to reverse that trend.”
Weller said that his agency would be teaming up with American farmers and ranchers based in the Great Plains and Midwest - “two regions at the heart of the monarch's migration” - to protect milkweed plants, which are the only food source for monarch caterpillars, and to restore lost habitat.
“In the southern Great Plains, our work will focus on rangelands and ways to improve the health of pastures so they provide good forage for livestock and food for monarchs,” he said. “In the Midwest, we're focusing on integrating plantings into croplands and making improvements to wetland areas.”
Producers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin are eligible to participate in the voluntary program. To sign-up or learn more, producers can contact their local USDA service center.
The $4 million in project funding will come from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the former Wetlands Reserve Program. Additional resources for habitat enhancement will be available nationwide through the Conservation Stewardship Program.
“These conservation improvements not only benefit butterflies, they also strengthen agricultural operations, support other beneficial insects and wildlife and improve other natural resources,” USDA said in a press release. “Appropriate buffer habitats and better rangeland and pasture management practices reduce erosion, increase soil health, inhibit the expansion of invasive species and provide food and habitat for insects and wildlife.”
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