Fear not, monarch butterflies: Obama is flying in to the rescue. The White House has just unveiled its new national strategy to increase the monarch butterfly population through the creation of a “butterfly corridor” along Interstate highway 35 between Mexico and Minnesota.
"Patches of high-quality habitat that's rich in flowers and free of pesticides forming a corridor from Mexico to Canada will help monarchs to find nectaring and breeding areas as they travel," Scott Hoffman Black, the executive director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, told Public Radio International.
The corridor will be 2,400 kilometers long (1,500 miles) and focus on the remarkable migratory pathway undertaken by monarch butterflies. These butterflies undergo what is known as a ‘multi-generational migration’—where they stay in Mexico during the winter, then travel to the southern U.S. to lay their eggs and die. The young butterflies continue the journey to northern U.S. and Canada.
The report lays out a plan to not only protect the monarch butterflies, but bees and other pollinators that are crucial to the American agricultural economy and environment. The number of monarch butterflies has been declining over the last few decades and though researchers reported a 70% increase last year, the number is still the second lowest since recording began in 1993.
Since 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that 970 million monarch butterflies have been lost. Intensive agriculture and the loss of nectar-producing flowers and milkweed are thought to be the cause of the population decline.
The report states that the corridor conditions “constitute large land acreage on a cumulative basis, are generally maintained in sunny areas with low vegetation height (ideal pollinator habitat), and often extend for considerable distances, thereby potentially acting as corridors for species movement and adaptation to climate change.”
U.S. agencies will have to coordinate with Mexican and Canadian partners to ensure the project is implemented successfully. The Pollinator Health Task Force hope to increase the monarch butterfly population from 56.5 million to 225 million by 2020.