Panetta Introduces Monarch Act Which Aims to Prevent Extinction of Western Monarch Butterflies

Pacific Grove, CA…Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) announced that he introduced H.R. 5920, the bipartisan Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat (MONARCH) Act. Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Rodney Davis (R-IL-12), and Rob Woodall (R-GA-07) co-led introduction of the House bill. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Photo By Kenneth Dwain Harrelson

This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would provide urgent protections for the struggling western monarch butterfly, a pollinator that is integral to supporting American agriculture and whose population has dropped by 99% since the 1980s.

“My district on the central coast of California is home to four of the top 10 high priority overwintering sites for western monarch butterflies. Sadly, as climate change continues to degrade their habitat, we have seen a huge decline in the number of monarchs on the Central Coast and along their migratory path,” said Congressman Panetta. “The MONARCH Act will provide critical federal investment in the activities needed to save the western monarch butterfly population from extinction. By actively restoring and protecting key monarch habitats, we can also help facilitate the conservation of other essential pollinators.”

“As the western monarch butterfly comes closer and closer to extinction, we don’t just risk losing these beautiful creatures—we also face an increasing threat to American agriculture and our food supply,” said Senator Merkley. “This is an urgent issue that requires urgent solutions. That’s why we must do everything we can to implement experts’ conservation plans and save these species before time runs out.”

“Over the past 40 years, the monarch butterfly population has dramatically depleted. We can’t let these important pollinators fall into extinction,” said Congressman Carbajal. “Luckily, our MONARCH Act is a way to protect these butterflies and, in turn, uplift our Pacific coast environment. In my district in Pismo Beach, we have the largest overwintering site of monarchs in the state and our ecosystem needs a healthy monarch population. Our bipartisan MONARCH Act incentivizes communities to boost conservation and help this population soar. I’m proud to introduce this important bill with my colleagues today.”

“Preserving our pollinators is vital to our ecosystem,” said Congressman Davis. “Their extinction would threaten agriculture and therefore, our food supply. As a co-chair of the Pollinator Caucus, I’m proud to support bipartisan solutions, like the MONARCH Act, which would invest in projects to protect the western monarch butterfly.”

“I appreciate the House Pollinator Protection Caucus’ work to bring attention to and propose solutions, like this bill, that address the challenges associated with the decline in pollinators across the country,” said Congressman Woodall. “Pollinators such as the Monarch Butterfly are vital to our ecosystem, and to avoid the loss of this species, we have to be on the offensive and take all necessary precautions.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20), Jerry McNerney (D-CA-09), Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01), Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), Joe Courtney (D-CT-02), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA-44), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), TJ Cox (D-CA-21), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR-04), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA-18), Josh Harder (D-CA-10), Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Peter T. King (R-NY-02), Susan Wild (D-PA-07), David Loebsack (D-IA-02), J. Luis Correa (D-CA-46), Jim Costa (D-CA-16), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-03) in the House, and Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in the Senate.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that approximately 35% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators for survival. But years of climate chaos, habitat loss, and disease are pushing pollinators like the monarch butterfly to the brink of extinction.

The MONARCH Act would help meet the critical need for urgent species recovery efforts by authorizing $62.5 million for projects aimed at conserving the western monarch. The legislation authorizes an additional $62.5 million to be spent by the National Fish and Wildlife Agencies to implement the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan, which was prepared by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in January of last year. The $62.5 million in funding for each effort would be divided into five annual installments of $12.5 million.

“You could say that Monarch Butterflies are part of the community’s DNA. We’ve long recognized Monarchs as key species to be celebrated and preserved. Our school district’s annual Butterfly Parade started 80 years ago. The City’s official logo and signs includes a Monarch. Importantly, the community recognized the need to conserve Monarch habitat by purchasing land for the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. But we can’t do it alone and applaud efforts by Congressman Panetta to encourage others to join us so that Monarchs thrive well into the future,” said Mayor Bill Peake, City of Pacific Grove.

“Monarch butterflies are an important part of ecosystems – they pollinate flowers and are a food source for many insects and other animals and this ecosystem service is greatly reduced due to their >99% decline. Restoring and conserving habitat through The Monarch Act of 2020 is an important step in protecting ecosystems for western monarchs and other pollinators and ensuring the valuable ecosystem services these habitats and species provide. Recovering their populations by conserving habitat before they go extinct is critical, but where to do this most effectively isn’t clear. One critical gap in our knowledge is where monarchs go after they leave the overwintering sites. There is a citizen science campaign: the Western Monarch Mystery Challenge, asking people all over California to report a monarch to iNaturalist or when you see one outside of overwintering groves to help inform conservation efforts,” said U.C. Santa Cruz Professor Marm Kilpatrick.

“Western monarch butterflies could be the next victims of the extinction crisis without immediate help,” said Stephanie Kurose, endangered species policy specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Future generations deserve a chance to see these beautiful black and orange butterflies in backyards across the West. Sen. Merkley and Reps. Panetta and Carbajal’s legislation gives them a fighting chance.”

“Western monarch populations have fallen by more than 99% in the last three decades and it is vital that we maximize conservation efforts to recover the species,” said Scott Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “That is why Xerces strongly supports the Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat Act of 2020, as it would provide essential funding to help protect and restore habitat for these incredible animals.”

The legislation is endorsed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, National Wildlife Federation, Monarch Joint Venture, Friends of the Earth, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), MonarchAlert, California Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), San Diego Zoo Global, City of Pacific Grove, CA, Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency, Charles Paddock Zoo, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Bees N Blooms, Safari West, Naturedigger, Butterfly Farms, Malibu Monarch Project, Aerulean Plant Identification Systems, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, People and Pollinators Action Network, Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Toxic Free NC, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, Pollinate Minnesota, Pennies for Monarchs, the Burroughs Audubon Society of Greater Kansas City, and Unite the Parks.