Monarch butterfly rescue efforts will get a $20 million boost from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a new funding initiative announced Thursday in Bloomington by the agency’s top executive.
Accompanied by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe said his agency has dedicated $4 million a year over the next five years to support monarchs, an iconic species that may be on its way to the endangered species list.
The financial support is a follow-up to a previously announced White House push to revive the population of pollinators with habitat restoration and other means.
Ashe visited a monarch conservation celebration at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and said in a news release that the money will be shared with partners to conserve monarch breeding and migration habitat in priority areas throughout the country, including Minnesota.
Seeding native milkweed along the prairie corridor that follows Interstate 35 from Duluth to Texas will be part of the effort.
Karen Oberhauser, a University of Minnesota professor and one of two key scientists advising federal agencies on the plan to save disappearing monarchs, said in an interview that Thursday’s funding announcement was more proof that the butterfly issue is gaining critical support.
Also at Thursday’s event in Bloomington was Tom Melius, the Midwest regional director for Fish and Wildlife and a key decisionmaker on where the money will be spent.
“It’s getting high-level attention. That’s the biggest news to me,” said Oberhauser, who also chairs Monarch Joint Venture, a group of researchers, conservationists, nonprofits and federal agencies.
Monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles over many generations during migration. The population in the wintering grounds of Mexico has plummeted from more than 1 billion in 1996 to an estimated 56.5 million this year.
“Loss of prairie habitat and declining numbers of milkweed, which sustains monarch caterpillars, are among the causes,” according to a release from Fish and Wildlife.