California project aims to bring back monarch butterflies

California project aims to bring back monarch butterflies
© Getty Images

California is attempting to bring back monarch butterflies with a new project that aims to restore their habitats.

In the past 30 years, the monarch butterfly population in California has declined by 99.9 percent. Only 1,900 were found along the California coast in a November survey by the Xerces Society, compared to 1.2 million in 1997, according to USA Today.

In 2021, spotters have reported seeing a few more monarchs than they did in 2020. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"These are very early numbers, so we need to be cautious to not read too much into this," Xerces Society executive director Scott Hoffman Black said to USA Today. He added that "the numbers do lend some hope that we could see a slight rebound in Western population." 

In an effort to restore the butterfly population, the Xerces Society has partnered with Orville Schell Farms owner Ole Schell to create a monarch sanctuary. Together, they have created a revitalization plan that includes planting more than 1,200 native nectar-producing flowers and plants, USA Today reported.

While some hoped the monarch would be declared a threatened or endangered species last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the service prioritized other species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Specifically, the FWS said that it determined the monarch butterfly's status as endangered was “warranted-but-precluded” as it simply did not have room on its list for the butterfly. The FWS will continue to consider adding the butterfly to the list annually until the species is no longer in need of protections for endangered animals.

“We conducted an intensive, thorough review using a rigorous, transparent science-based process and found that the monarch meets listing criteria under the Endangered Species Act,” said FWS Director Aurelia Skipwith at the time. 

The Hill has reached out to FWS and the Xerces Society for comment.