Monarch butterflies are found throughout the United States, though a majority of the population migrates up to 3,000 miles to Mexico for the winter months. Over the past 20 years, the North American monarch population has plunged from 1 billion to less than 60 million, due mostly to loss of critical habitat. These beautiful, black-and-orange insects depend not only on nectar-producing plants throughout their range, but also milkweed — the only food source for monarch caterpillars.
In 2015, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) established the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund to protect, conserve and increase habitat for these iconic insects and other pollinators. Created with an initial $1.2 million commitment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the fund will pool additional funding from other private and public donors and matching resources from grantees.
The Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund focuses on three priority conservation needs to restore the monarch butterfly to a more robust and healthy population:
- Habitat restoration to plant native milkweed for caterpillars and nectar plants for adults in both large, contiguous areas as well as in smaller patches, especially in edge habitat along the butterfly's migration route.
- Increasing organizational capacity and coordination among organizations, states, and regions engaged in monarch conservation and monitoring, science coordination, milkweed seed blend production and distribution, and monarch programming to ensure efficiency and the use and sharing of best practices.
- Native seed production and distribution to increase production and availability of seeds and plants essential to habitat restoration.
NFWF is currently working with funders and outside experts to develop a targeted strategy to support the recovery of monarchs while providing benefits to a broader group of pollinators. In 2016, NFWF will solicit proposals that seek to produce the required conservation outcomes. Funding for habitat restoration; organizational capacity building; and native seed production and distribution will support on-the-ground conservation projects around the country with a focus on the central United States. It is anticipated that this round of selected projects will commence this fall and early winter.
Since 2015, 23 projects have been supported through the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund. A total of $3.8 million in NFWF funds has leveraged an additional $6.7 million in matching contributions for this program. Support for this program has been provided by USFWS, Monsanto, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.