Nature Foundation Unveils $3.3M in Monarch Butterfly Grants

29 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Monsanto joins group giving $3.3M toward monarch butterfly protection.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A national wildlife group awarded $3.3 million in grants Monday in its initial push to stem the worrisome decline of monarch butterflies, hoping the effort helps restore as much as 33,000 acres of habitat for the black-and-orange insect. WASHINGTON • A consortium that includes Monsanto and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced Monday the first grants to improve monarch butterfly habitat on 33,000 acres in the United States.The funding, which will be matched by more than $6.7 million in grantee contributions, will come from the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund NFWF launched earlier this year to restore the butterfly population. The grants “will fund on-the-ground projects that will quickly contribute to a healthier, more sustainable monarch population.” Many of Monday’s biggest grants — roughly $250,000 apiece — went to efforts to bolster grasslands and other habitat in key monarch butterfly migration corridors. Monarch butterflies, which migrate up to 3,0000 miles from Mexico north to the U.S. and Canada and back again, depend not only on nectar-producing plants throughout their range, but also milkweed — the primary food source for monarch caterpillars.

Over the past 20 years, the North American monarch population has plunged from 1 billion to fewer than 60 million, due to many factors, including loss of critical habitat. One project looks to restore more than 1,000 acres of monarch habitat in the Dakotas, while another includes the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s quest to create or improve 7,000 habitat acres along two of the butterfly’s major north-south migration routes. It will be used to hire staff, increase the supply of milkweed seed, and “serve as a national model for urban monarch conservation ecology,” according to a fact sheet describing the grant.

NFWF said a part of the grant funding came from Monsanto, which produces the popular herbicide known as Roundup Ready that’s been linked to the destruction of milkweed. “We are committed to helping monarch butterflies rebound and value this opportunity to partner with others to improve critical habitat,” Brett Begemann, Mondanto’s president and COO, said in a news release. “We believe that commitment to environmental sustainability and land productivity are compatible objectives.” States with recipients of Monday’s grants include Arizona, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Washington. And that progress will further underpin the idea that “we can continue to expand our ability to produce abundant, affordable, healthy foods and fiber for America and the world, and we can do that in a way that takes care of an iconic species of wildlife,” Ashe said. The MBCF is designed to leverage the investments made by federal agencies with additional funding from other private and public donors, as well as matching resources from grantees.

Louis-based agribusiness Monsanto Co., maker of the Roundup weed killer that critics have partly blamed for knocking out monarch butterflies’ habitat. Forest Service, said the Obama administration’s goal to raise monarch numbers to 225 million by 2020 is entirely achievable with private public partnerships like this one. Much of the drop-off has been blamed on destruction of habitat that includes milkweed, where monarchs lay their eggs and which provides the sole source of food for caterpillars that later develop into the distinctive butterflies. One of the other grants is $75,000 toward a $305,000 effort by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees to install “monarch-friendly plantings” on campuses, and for other monarch habitat preservation and promotion in the state.

But along the route, there is less of the milkweed — widely attributed to increasing acreage for corn and soybeans, logging, construction and a drought that peaked in 2012. Environmentalists say the butterfly’s decline has coincided with the increased use of Roundup, and more acreage planted with its herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready crops.

The grants are also designed to increase production of milkweed seeds and that of other plants, and to educate the public on the need to plant and protect milkweed. Forest Service; Jason Weller, Chief, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Jolie Pollet, Acting Assistant Director, Resources and Planning, BLM; and Dr. Louis Mayor Francis Slay earlier this month declared the city the first to sign the “Mayors’ Monarch Pledge” to help increase the population of the iconic butterfly. 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.” “The U.S. Forest Service is excited to be a partner in restoring habitats for the monarch, an important pollinator with a key role in the American ecosystem,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We look forward to assisting in building a more secure future for these elegant and valuable butterflies.” “NRCS works with America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to make a variety of voluntary conservation improvements to their land, many of which benefit pollinators like monarch butterflies,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “More than three dozen NRCS conservation practices benefit pollinators, whether it’s planting milkweed or high-nectar plants in field borders, conservation buffers and pastures.

Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions. He said remedies such as monarch-friendly “buffer” strips around farm fields, increasing milkweed seed production for private plantings, and increasing milkweed populations on public lands will be a key to the partnership between his company and the various agencies going forward. “Farmers, in order to manage their crop, they have to do weed control and manage weeds in their system,” he said. “I think with that said there is also an opportunity for farmers, and working with Monsanto and others, to educate on how to provide opportunities for habitat restoration on the farm. He said he was encouraged by estimates that the population, which once surpassed 1 billion, has risen from 30 million to 60 million over the last year.

We produce seeds for fruits, vegetables and key crops – such as corn, soybeans, and cotton – that help farmers have better harvests while using water and other important resources more efficiently. We work to find sustainable solutions for soil health, help farmers use data to improve farming practices and conserve natural resources, and provide crop protection products to minimize damage from pests and disease.

Follow our business on Twitter at, on the company blog, Beyond the Rows® at or subscribe to our News Release RSS Feed. Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

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