SACRAMENTO— Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) has introduced legislation to protect and restore the habitat of one of California’s iconic monarch butterfly. AB 2421 provides funds and technical assistance to restore monarch habitats across the state.
“Monarch butterflies are dying off at alarming rates, and as their population declines, the ecosystem is threatened,” said Stone. “This measure provides grants and support to farmers, ranchers, nonprofits and public agencies to restore and protect monarch habitats.”
Experts estimate the populations overwintering on the California coast have declined from about 3 million in the 1980s to just 300,000 – a 90 percent decline over just three decades. Scientists argue that there is a 72 percent chance that the butterflies will go extinct within the next 20 years.
Specifically, AB 2421 would establish the Monarch & Pollinator Rescue Program (MPRP) at the Wildlife Conservation Board. MPRP would provide grants and technical assistance to applicants to restore California prairie in an effort to recover and sustain populations of monarchs and other pollinators. Further, the program would coordinate efforts to restore breeding and overwintering habitat throughout the monarch’s range, particularly on farms and ranches in the Central Coast, Central Valley, and Sierra Nevada foothills.
“AB 2421 is exactly the type of urgent action we need to recover the monarch butterfly here in California, and beyond,” said Eric Holst, associate vice president of working lands at Environmental Defense Fund, a sponsor of the measure. “To achieve the amount of habitat needed, we will need all hands on deck, including supportive partnerships between state and local leaders, food companies and agribusiness, chemical and seed companies, and philanthropic organizations and foundations. I’m glad to see California leaders rising to the occasion.”
In the summer, monarchs breed in California prairie habitat, which is a blend of grasses, native wildflowers, and milkweed that once carpeted the Central Valley. The geographic range of California prairie has dramatically shrunk in modern times from pesticide use, expanded development, and climate change. For monarchs, the most critical component of breeding habitat is milkweed, which is the only plant on which monarchs will lay eggs, and the only plant the caterpillars eat. Monarchs overwinter in sensitive forest habitat along the Central Coast, where habitat loss has occurred as a result of development, land management decisions, and climate change.
Monarch butterflies are important to humans because they use resources that are common to many pollinators; as a result, their numbers reflect general pollinator population success. The butterflies also serve as a key source of food for birds, small animals, and other insects. Humans rely on a healthy pollinator population for stable, secure food sources and ecosystems; therefore, it is necessary to take action to protect monarchs.
Contact: Arianna Smith
A monarch butterfly in flight (photo credit: Environmental Defense Fund).