The monarch butterfly has declined by more than 90% in 20 years and has lost more than 165 million acres of habitat. The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety with the assistance of a monarch specialist, Dr. Lincoln Bower, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking protection under the Endangered Species Act.
“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Lincoln Brower, preeminent monarch researcher and conservationist, who has been studying the species since 1954.
“We’re at risk of losing a symbolic backyard beauty that has been part of the childhood of every generation of American,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio.”
“The widespread decline of monarchs is driven by the massive spraying of herbicides on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in cropland that dominates the Midwest landscape,” said Bill Freese, a Center for Food Safety science policy analyst. “Doing what is needed to protect monarchs will also benefit pollinators and other valuable insects, and thus safeguard our food supply.”
“We need to take immediate action to protect the monarch so that it doesn’t become another tragic example of a widespread species being erased because we falsely assumed it was too common to become extinct,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species director at the Xerces Society. “2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, which was once so numerous no one would ever have believed it was at risk of extinction. History demonstrates that we cannot afford to be complacent about saving the monarch.”
“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species like the monarch, and protect them, now, before it’s too late,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “We’ve provided FWS a legal and scientific blueprint of the urgently needed action here.”
“The monarch is the canary in the cornfield, a harbinger of environmental change that we’ve brought about on such a broad scale that many species of pollinators are now at risk if we don’t take action to protect them,” said Brower, who has published hundreds of scientific studies on monarchs.
The Center recommends planting milkweed to attract monarchs and to avoid spraying pesticides on their lawns and gardens. It also helps monarchs when consumers choose foods, especially corn and soy, that are organic and that have not been genetically engineered. Increased pesticide use to grow corn and soybeans that have been genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides is the primary factor driving monarch decline.
Center for Food Safety Press Release.