SNAP Policy Committee –  NACCB Policy Declaration

The following declaration will be presented to the membership of the North America Section of SCB and offered for a vote during the 2018 SCBNA Members Meeting, held Tuesday July 24, 4pm ET at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology. If the membership votes to approve the policy resolution, it will then be released to the public and press, amplifying the impact and visibility of the Toronto meeting to the public writ-large.

  • The SCBNA Policy Committee will hold an Interactive Session from 8:30am – 10am on Monday July 23 at the conference, where attendees will be work together to refine and finalize a policy declaration in real time at the conference.
  • This declaration focuses on the conservation of the monarch butterfly, a species whose conservation depends on actions in all habitats from urban to wild. The monarch butterfly has recently been designated an endangered species in Canada under the Species at Risk Act and is being considered for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Read below the draft policy declaration:

Policy Declaration to Support Conserving and Recovering the Monarch Butterfly

[July 24, 2018]

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) is one of the most familiar and iconic butterflies in North America.  Its extraordinary multi-generational migration from the mountains of Central Mexico, across dozens of U.S. states to the southern portions of six Canadian provinces is one of the most famous natural events in the world. The eastern migration, which likely numbered in the billions historically has declined precipitously — an 80 percent drop compared to the 20-year average.[1]  The smaller, western migration from the coast of California throughout states west of the Rocky Mountains is also at serious risk of extirpation — with its most recent population census in November 2017 at only 193,000 butterflies.[2]

In 2014, the Obama Administration noted that there was an “imminent risk of failed migration”[3] and in December of that year determined that the butterfly may warrant protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.[4]  Similarly, a peer-reviewed paper published in Nature in early 2016 by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that there was up to a 57 percent risk that the eastern migration could be extirpated within 20 years.[5]

On June 29, 2016 the leaders of Mexico, Canada, and the United States agreed to a North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership Action Plan that, among other items, set forth a goal to restore the monarch butterfly’s eastern population to an approximate size of 6 hectares at the overwintering sites in Mexico, or approximately 225 million overwintering monarchs.[6]

The biennial North America Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB) is one of the largest gatherings of conservation professionals in North America. The 2018 meeting in Toronto, Canada brings together more than [1500] participants representing scientists, experts, researchers, policy makers, students, and others. The theme of the 2018 NAACB meeting is to maintain and strengthen biodiversity across ecosystems embedded within urban, rural, and wild landscapes, and to support connections among practitioners, managers, and researchers working across all ecological settings. As such, the conservation of the monarch butterfly provides a fitting topic to focus on at the Congress because preserving and restoring the monarch will take innovative and effective conservation interventions in urban, rural and wild lands across virtually all the North American continent.

Monarch butterflies face a wide array of threats including (1) the loss of milkweed and the spread of non-native tropical milkweeds that disrupt the migration cycle, (2) general habitat degradation and conversion of grasslands and other habitats that provide nectaring plants along their migration routes, (3) development and conversion of rural landscapes, (4) loss of wintering forest habitat due to deforestation and agricultural intensification, (5) roadside and right-of-way management practices that do not incorporate ecological considerations (6) predation by non-native insects such as fire-ants, (7) spread of pathogens such as Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, (8) the capture, sale, transport, and release of monarchs for commercial purposes, (9) and finally, climate change and the associated risks of more severe, exceptional storm events such as the winter storm in 2015 that saw the lowest barometric pressures in central Mexico in recorded history.

Only bold and comprehensive actions can sustain the monarch butterfly, as taken by governmental entities at international, national, state/provincial, and local levels. While stabilizing the eastern monarch population at 6 hectares is an important first step, further action will be needed to fully restore the monarch to levels that guarantee long-term persistence by building the eastern population back to its pre-decline numbers of at least 20 hectares of over-wintering forest cover. Urgent action is also required to stabilize the western monarch population, which may now be at imminent risk of extirpation.

Policy Declaration

Accordingly, the participants at the NACCB and the Society for Conservation Biology North America declare that bold conservation and restoration actions must be undertaken as soon as possible by governments and civil society at all levels to foster long-term success in protecting the monarch butterfly. We support and recommend the following actions be implemented to achieve the goal of restoring the monarch butterfly:

Possible Recommendations to Include in Policy Declaration:

[Please note: SCBNA’s policy committee is requesting feedback from members of the North America section both via email and in person at the 2018 NACCB meeting to determine which recommendations are included in a policy declaration.  All of the recommendations on the following pages are drafts, subject to change, revision or deletion.  In addition, we are seeking more recommendations from members regarding possible courses of action.  Please respond to policy@scbnorthamerica.org to submit your feedback.]

Continental/Tri-national Recommendations:

  • [Identify a long-term population target above the 6 hectare/225 million individual level to ensure the long-term recovery of the eastern monarch butterfly population.]
  • [Identify a short-term population target to stabilize the western monarch population, and a long-term population goal to ensure its recovery.]
  • [Develop a tri-national ecological restoration goal to plant native milkweed and nectar species along the entire spring and fall migratory routes from Mexico to Canada.]

National-level Actions:

  • [Harmonize and expedite the review of insecticide pesticides in the United States and Canada — including the neonicotinoid class of pesticides — that have the potential to kill or injure monarch butterflies directly. Expedite the review of herbicides impact on milkweed survival and quality of nectar plants.]
  • [Conduct an immediate environmental assessment of the impacts of pesticides on milkweed and pollinator habitat within the agricultural field and edge habitats.]
  • [Develop funding mechanisms to restore 5 million acres of milkweed habitat in the United States annually for at least 20 years, and to restore 2 million acres of milkweed habitat annually in Canada for at least the next 20 years.]
  • [Because global climate change threatens to render unsuitable the monarch’s overwintering habitat, and because severe weather events related to climate change cause monarch mortality and disrupt the migration, all three nations should commit to bold actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.]
  • [Curtail the sale and the release of captive monarch butterflies which risks disease transmission to wild populations due to the prevalence of harmful parasites from captive-reared monarchs.]
  • [Develop new funding sources to address non-native species, such as invasive fire-ants, and other predators of the monarch butterfly

State/Provincial Recommendations

  • [Develop best practices for mowing and management of roadside habitats and rights-of-way to make them pollinator and monarch friendly.]
  • [Develop funding mechanisms to incentive long-term habitat restoration of milkweed and pollinator habitat on State and Provincial parks and other lands held in trust for the public.]
  • [Develop a comprehensive framework for protecting overwintering habitat in California for the western monarch population.]
  • [Review and consider new restrictions on the sale of non-native milkweed plants that can disrupt the migration of monarch butterflies.]
  • [Review and consider new restrictions on the sale of monarch butterflies for commercial purposes.]

Local Recommendations:

  • [Develop best practices for mowing and management of roadside habitats and rights-of-way to make them pollinator and monarch friendly.]
  • [Manage parks and wildlife areas without the use of herbicides and pesticides.]
  • [Develop educational programs for gardeners and teachers on the planting of local, native milkweeds and nectaring plants]

[1]Rendon-Salinas, E., F. Martinez-Meza, A. Martinez-Pacheco,  and M. Cruz-Piña. Superficie forestal ocupada por las colonias de hibernación de la mariposa monarca en México durante Diciembre de 2017. World Wildlife Fund Mexico Report. (Available online at: http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/2017_Monitoreo_
Mariposa_Monarca_en_Mexico_2017-2018.pdf
).

[2] Western Monarch Count Resource Center. 2017. The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. (Available online at: https://www.westernmonarchcount.org/data/).

[3] Presidential Memorandum — Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, 79, Fed. Reg. 35,903 (June 24, 2014).

[4]  90-Day Findings on Two Petitions, 79 Fed. Reg. 78,775 (Dec. 31, 2014).

[5] Semmens, B. X., D. J. Semmens, W. E. Thogmartin, R. Wiederholt, L. Lopez-Hoffman, J. E. Diffendorfer, J. M. Pleasants, K. S. Oberhauser and O. R. Taylor. 2016. Quasi-extinction risk and population targets for the Eastern, migratory population of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). Sci Rep 6: 23265.

[6] North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership Action Plan, June 29, 2016. Available: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/29/north-american-climate-clean-energy-and-environment-partnership-action