Oklahoma Part Of National Effort to Bring Battered Butterfly Population Back
Habitat loss and the use of herbicides to kill butterfly-preferred milkweed plants have caused the monarch butterfly population to drop by 90 percent over the last twenty years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Now, the race is on to save the monarchs through the newly announced National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Monarch Conservation Fund, a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The campaign aimed at saving the monarchs will use public and private funds to grow milkweed. The wildlife service has pledged $2 million in immediate funding for on-the-ground conservation projects across the nation, according to a news release.
In Oklahoma, efforts to create more monarch habitats will be focused along the Interstate 35 corridor.
The I-35 corridor is in the monarch’s “central flyway” as they travel thousands of miles along their migration route, according to the Fish and Wildlife Department.
Pearl Pearson, a horticulture curator at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens, has been watching the monarch population decline.
Pearson has planted butterfly gardens at the zoo since 1995. It used to be thousands of monarchs that stopped at the zoo on their way south in the fall. But in recent years the number has dropped to hundreds, she said.
… “It’s scary what we’re seeing right now,” Pearson said. “We used to see thousands and we always knew when they were coming through.”
In a press release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says saving the monarchs is about more than just butterflies, and that the “monarch serves as an indicator of the health of pollinators and the American landscape. Monarch declines are symptomatic of environmental problems that pose risks to our food supply, the spectacular natural places that help define our national identity, and our own health.”