Studies estimate that the monarch butterfly’s population has declined by 95 percent since the 1980s. A major driver is the loss of milkweed habitat across the U.S., particularly in the Midwest.
Milkweed, which monarchs rely on for breeding, has long found a foothold in both native prairie habitats and in disturbed habitats like roadsides, ditches, cemeteries, and even in the middle of cornfields. But the monarch is losing this foothold due largely to increased use of herbicides in agriculture.
Monarchs face a number of other threats including extreme weather, roadway mortality, habitat fragmentation, parasites, pathogens, pesticide drift, and climate change. To be resilient to these threats, monarchs need more high-quality habitat throughout its entire breeding range.
The scale at which this type of restoration is needed is enormous. Millions of acres must be restored, which will require the help of thousands of private landowners nationwide.
Fortunately, new tools are emerging that have the potential to put the monarch on the path to recovery before an Endangered Species Act listing is necessary.
the exchange's solution
The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is an innovative, multi-stakeholder conservation program that leverages the latest science tools and the strong stewardship ethic of America's farmers and ranchers to drive effective restoration at the scale and pace needed.
The Exchange creates a marketplace for those looking to invest in monarch recovery, such as private industries with commitments to recovering the species, with those who are well positioned to create monarch habitat, such as farmers and ranchers who are highly motivated to help.
Using the Habitat Quantification Tool and the efficiency of market forces, the Exchange directs investments to projects that are most cost-effective and that deliver the highest value to monarchs. The goal is to effectively crowdsource conservation across the nation's agricultural sector by significantly boosting investment in restoration activities and maximizing results on the ground.
The Exchange is currently focused on three key regions: Central Texas, Northern Missouri, and California's Central Valley. The Exchange will scale up operations over time, expanding into other states and regions.