Earlier this week, Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and other lawmakers wrote to the principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expressing concern with the recent decision to forgo listing the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act.
The letter, penned along with Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-California, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, also urged substantial investments be made in monarch conservation efforts so the pollinator doesn’t go extinct before protections are in place.
In a news release, the congressman said, monarch butterflies face “growing threats from the loss of milkweed and habitat, global climate change, and disease. The most recent population count for monarch butterflies shows a 99.9% decline in population for monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains, which overwinter in California.
“Just two decades ago, roughly 1.2 million monarchs overwintered in California. This year, that number is down to 1,914. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service itself estimates that there is a 96-100% probability that the population of western monarch butterflies will collapse within 50 years.”
On Dec. 17, 2020, Fish and Wildlife announced that listing the monarch as endangered or threatened was warranted but was precluded by higher priority species.
“This decision effectively puts the monarch butterfly on a waiting list but denies the species immediate protection,” read the news release. “Some species have been on the waiting list for decades and, in fact, 47 species have gone extinct while waiting for their protection to be finalized.”
The letter, which garnered support from 43 conservation organizations, read in part, “If the monarch’s precipitous decline continues, the Service must make prompt use of its emergency listing procedure to ensure its survival. To ensure the monarch does not become the 48th species to go extinct while on the candidate list, we urge the Service to make substantial investments in bold conservation actions that not only prevent the butterfly from further decline but also ensure long-term population stability.”
— Mitchell White