FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - It’s almost Earth Day, and Monarch butterflies have begun their illustrious journey north. But with a population that has dwindled to just 10% of that just a few years ago, this “monarchy” may cease to exist within a couple decades. Today, Waterway Advocates submitted a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging the agency to strengthen critical protections for these pollinators and their host plants.
Since the 1990s, agriculture and urbanization have all but depleted U.S. populations of milkweed, the Monarch’s vital host plant. Prostrate milkweed, one type located in the butterfly’s breeding grounds and migratory pathways of Texas, is currently being considered for endangered status at the federal level. Florida’s native green-flower milkweed, Curtiss’s milkweed, and other species throughout the country continue to make the endangered lists. Populations are nearing zero, and the butterflies are not far behind.
“One of the greatest phenomena of the natural world is vanishing before our eyes,” lamented Caleb Merendino, Co-Founder of Waterway Advocates and an avid gardener and butterfly enthusiast himself. “We must continue to increase protections in creative and collaborative ways if we want to make our ecosystems truly thrive."
Read the full letter below.
April 16, 2022
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: PRB/3W
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803
RE: Strengthen Critical Protections for Butterflies and Milkweed Now
(Doc. #2022-02544 / Docket FWS-R2-ES-2021-0041)
Waterway Advocates appreciates your efforts to strengthen protections for prostrate milkweed, Monarch butterflies, and other pollinators. It is disturbing that the Monarch butterfly population has rapidly declined to under 10% of that just a few decades ago. One of the most remarkable natural phenomena of our world - the great Monarch migration - is vanishing before our eyes. With it, we will also witness the loss of numerous ecological, economic, and other benefits that this species provides.
We must conserve the host plants and habitats of Monarch butterflies if we are to aid in their comeback. We are in strong support of establishing prostrate milkweed as an endangered species and designating critical habitat for this species under the Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, we encourage your agency to implement protections and habitat designations for other milkweed species found throughout the United States as soon as possible, including creative plans for facilitating populations in urban environments. Our populations of milkweed are nearing zero, and we must act swiftly to replenish them.
These plants, as well as the Monarch butterflies, bees, wasps, and other pollinators that rely on them, are vital components of a healthy and effective ecosystem. You have the opportunity to ensure these additional protections, and we appreciate the opportunity to comment. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Respectfully, Caleb Merendino