Story at a glance

  • The San Francisco Chronicle reports the population of Western monarchs has seen a 99 percent decline since the 1980s.
  • Researchers believe a major factor in the Western monarch’s dwindling numbers is the decline in milkweed caused by farming and pesticide use.
  • The Rivers Partners group and others are working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to plant more than 30,000 milkweed plants across more than 600 acres of the state.

A coalition of conservation groups is working with the state of California in an effort to save the Western monarch butterfly from the brink of extinction. 

The population of Western monarchs that once migrated to California in the millions has seen a dramatic drop over the past several decades. 


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The San Francisco Chronicle reports the population of Western monarchs has seen a 99 percent decline since the 1980s. The number of butterflies overwintering in coastal California fell to less than 2,000, compared with the nearly 30,000 in 2019. 

Researchers believe a major factor in the Western monarch’s dwindling numbers is the decline in milkweed caused by farming and pesticide use. 

The milkweed plant is critical to the survival of monarchs. 

Adult monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants and caterpillars eat it before undergoing metamorphosis. 

In an attempt to save the monarchs, the Rivers Partners group and others are working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to plant more than 30,000 milkweed plants across more than 600 acres of the state with the hopes of bringing the insect’s numbers back, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. California put up $1 million to fund the initiative to restore the Western monarch’s habitat. 

The planting is taking place in Northern California along the Sacramento, Feather and Kern rivers. 

Workers have planted 12,000 milkweed plants this month in Modesto, and the final plant is expected for the fall in Oroville. 

“We’re taking the deliberative approach to make sure the species does persist,” Francis Ulep, a restoration biologist with River Partners, told The San Francisco Chronicle

“There couldn’t be a more critical time to be doing this,” he told the outlet. 


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Published on Jun 04, 2021