SACRAMENTO— A key policy committee has approved legislation by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) to protect and restore the habitat of California’s iconic monarch butterfly. AB 2421, which was approved with bipartisan support, provides funds and guidance for farmers, ranchers, nonprofits and public agencies to restore monarch habitats across the state.
“Monarch butterflies are dying off at alarming rates, and as their populations decline, ecosystems across California are threatened,” said Stone. “This measure provides grants and support to restore monarch and other pollinator habitats. I’m pleased that my colleagues recognize the necessity to protect the lands where monarchs live, breed, and migrate.”
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.
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.
“Saving the monarch butterfly from extinction requires urgent action from multiple sectors across North America, and AB 2421 shows how California can be a part of the solution,” said Eric Holst, associate vice president of working lands at Environmental Defense Fund, a sponsor of the measure. “We need more leaders like Assemblymember Stone who are willing to put forth creative ideas for supporting imperiled wildlife, even those species that are not as iconic and beloved as the monarch.”
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.
The bill will next be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.