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article imageMonarch butterfly may be designated an endangered species

By Marcus Hondro     Mar 20, 2015 in Environment
A group of 52 members of the U.S. Congress are looking to save the beautiful Monarch butterfly. To help do so the politicians sent a letter to Pres. Obama last week asking him to put the iconic insect on the endangered species list.
Loss of Monarch butterflies
A February press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes that as recently as 1996 there were one billion Monarchs in the United States. Now? It's estimated that over 90 percent of Monarchs are lost, with their numbers down to about 35 million in the country.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) is spearheading the charge to get the Monarch on the endangered list and she notes that during its migration when the monarchs got to Mexico they "used to cover 50 square miles" but that now they only cover "an area about the size of a football field." Rep. Pingree places the blame on applying chemicals to farmlands.
While the degradation of wintering habitats in Mexico and California have contributed to the loss of Monarchs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies agree that the primary reason for the dramatic drop in Monarch butterfly numbers is the rampant use of pesticides, in particular Roundup. Marketed since 1973 by Monsanto, Roundup contains the chemical Glyphosate.
Despite the widespread use of Glyphosate all over the world, its effect on humans, other animals and the environment is still under debate. Crops are genetically modified by Monsanto to become Roundup Ready; so modified, they survive Roundup but weeds do not. Glyphosate destroys milkweed, a principal source of food for the Monarch larvae (caterpillar).
Educating public on butterfly
There are movements afoot in the U.S. to bring back milkweed and aid the Monarch and the letter to Obama acknowledged that. It also noted that putting the butterfly on the endangered list would speed efforts to help restore it.
"Early efforts by farmers, local, state and federal agencies to plant milkweed and to educate the public on the plight of the monarch are laudable, and represent important first steps at stabilizing monarch population levels," the letter reads in part.
"However, without a seachange in how the federal government addresses the use of herbicides, especially as applied to herbicide-resistant crops, vital monarch habitats will simply continue to disappear," the letter says. "We believe that the Endangered Species Act represents the last best chance to save this amazing species and its incredible migration."
Monarch butterfly and environment
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a website for the public to learn about how they can help restore the butterfly. The website writes that "the state of Monarchs reflects the health of the American landscape and its pollinators" and their decline is "symptomatic of environmental problems that also pose risks to food production, the spectacular natural places that help define our national identity, and our own health."
The wildlife service believes restoring the Monarch will also have a positive impact on the health of humans and of "other plants and animals."
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