University of Minnesota

Monarch Conservation

Overwintering Western monarchs in California. (Photo: Wendy Caldwell)
Monarch cluster, Mexico 2012-13 overwintering season (Photo: Wendy Caldwell)

The monarch migration is one of nature’s most spectacular events. North American monarchs travel up to an astonishing 3,000 miles in an annual migration from their summer breeding habitat to overwintering grounds. It was listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as an endangered phenomenon in 1983. The World Wildlife Fund included monarchs on its list of the “Top 10 to Watch” in 2010: species that are thought to be in need of close monitoring and protection.

Monarchs face many risks that are resulting in declining populations in both the eastern and western parts of their North American range. The largest impacts come from the loss of habitat for breeding, migrating, and overwintering. In addition, pesticides and mowing practices that are used to control insects and weeds have harmful unintended consequences for monarchs; a changing climate may be making some habitat less suitable and forcing changes in migratory patterns; and monarchs face many risks from natural enemies, such as predators, parasitoids, and diseases.

On August 26, 2014. The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety, in conjunction with the Xerces society and Lincoln Brower, filed a legal petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service that seeks protection for the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). “The monarch is the canary in the cornfield, a harbinger of environmental change that we’ve brought about on such a broad scale that many species of pollinators are now at risk if we don’t take action to protect them,“ said Brower. It is important to recognize that the petition requests that monarchs be listed as threatened, not endangered. As a candidate for a threatened species listing, the monarch is at risk of becoming endangered in the near future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. More information about species listing under the ESA can be found here, and at the links at the bottom of the page.

As a partner of the MJV, the UMN Monarch Lab works to help conserve the monarch migration primarily through education. We work with other partners in the Joint Venture to educate teachers, conservationists, and citizen scientists about the importance of monarch butterflies and what they can do to help. MJV partners include federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs and they are committed to a science-based approach to monarch conservation work, guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (2008).

Go to the Monarch Joint Venture Website

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