A plant could hold the key to increase populations of eastern Monarch Butterflies. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission spokeswoman, Kristal Stoner, says an 80% decline in eastern Monarch populations over the past twenty years has prompted the commission to take part in a multi-state effort to re-build the butterfly’s habitat by planting milkweed anywhere from local gardens, to hiking trails.
“As we’ve seen, we’ve lost quite a bit of this habitat across kind of the Corn Belt area of the United States,” Stoner tells Nebraska Radio Network, “So we’re looking to return as much of that possible by building up that breeding population of Monarchs.”
Stoner says eastern Monarch butterflies returning from Mexican migration need milkweed to survive, as it’s the only thing their caterpillars will eat. The plan, called the Mid America Monarch Conservation Strategy, primarily focuses on voluntary and incentive-based habitat restoration and enhancement efforts, but also includes education and outreach, research, and monitoring needs related to monarch conservation.
In 2014, the monarch was petitioned for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, and a decision on whether listing is warranted is expected in 2019.