SACRAMENTO— The Senate Natural Resources 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 received bipartisan support, provides funds and guidance for farmers, ranchers, nonprofits and public agencies to restore monarch habitats across the state.
“As monarch butterfly populations decline, ecosystems across our state are at risk of collapse,” said Stone. “This measure provides grants and support to preserve and restore monarch and other pollinator habitats. It’s our duty 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 200,000 – a decline of over 90 percent in 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 establishes 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. Additionally, it 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.
The recently passed state budget includes $3 million for MPRP to fund monarch and pollinator habitat preservation and restoration in overwintering grounds and valley breeding habitats.
In the summer, monarchs breed in California prairie habitat, which once extended across the Central Valley. The geographic range of California prairie has dramatically shrunk as a result of pesticide use, expanded development, and climate change. For monarchs, the milkweed plant is most critical component of their breeding habitat because it is the only plant on which monarchs will lay eggs and the only plant their caterpillars eat. Monarchs overwinter in forests along the Central Coast, which suffers from habitat loss as a result of development, land management decisions, and climate change.
Monarch butterflies use resources common to many pollinators, so their numbers reflect general pollinator population success. Humans rely on healthy pollinator populations for stable, secure food sources and ecosystems.
The bill will be considered next by the Senate Appropriations Committee.