More than $3 million in grants were announced by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Monday to help address a dramatic drop in the monarch butterfly over the past 20 years linked to an increase in herbicide use.
The 22 grants issued will be matched by more than $6.7 million from the grant recipients to support the restoration of up to 33,000 acres of the butterfly's habitat vital for the insect's recovery, said a foundation release
"Monarch butterflies are found throughout most of the United States, and a majority of the population migrates up to 3,000 miles to overwinter in Mexico," said the foundation.
"Over the past 20 years, the North American monarch population has plunged from one billion to fewer than 60 million, due to many factors, including loss of critical habitat. These beautiful, black-and-orange insects depend not only on nectar-producing plants throughout their range, but also milkweed – the primary food source for monarch caterpillars."
Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society and monarch scientist Lincoln Brower filed a petition
with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking endangered species protection for monarch butterflies.
"The widespread decline of monarchs is driven by the massive spraying of herbicides on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in cropland that dominates the Midwest landscape," said Bill Freese, a Center for Food Safety science policy analyst. "Doing what is needed to protect monarchs will also benefit pollinators and other valuable insects, and thus safeguard our food supply."
The Monstanto Co., which some have blamed for making chemicals in products like Roundup for the decline in monarch butterfly habitat, according to Newsweek
, is one of the grant funders, noted the Wildlife Foundation.
"We are committed to helping monarch butterflies rebound and value this opportunity to partner with others to improve critical habitat," said Brett Begemann, president and chief operating officer of Monsanto. "We believe that commitment to environmental sustainability and land productivity are compatible objectives. To feed a growing population, we need to use all of the management practices available to increase agricultural productivity and make more land available for monarchs, bees, birds and other wildlife."
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