Experts reconvene a year after first summit to discuss Pollinator Conservation Center status and conservation actions to save this iconic species

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to invite experts and stakeholders to participate in an annual Monarch Butterfly Meeting, which was held today at the U.S. Capitol. The participants reflected on last year’s Monarch Summit and discussed future initiatives and projects to continue supporting the reestablishment of the iconic monarch butterfly and other pollinators, as well as the role of the new Pollinator Conservation Center at the FWS—also announced at last year’s Monarch Summit.

“We’ve all experienced the moment of childhood joy and excitement when we spot a monarch butterfly fluttering through the air,” said Senator Merkley. “Allowing the western monarch butterfly to go extinct, means we’ll lose an iconic, beautiful species – and a critical pollinator – forever. This is an urgent issue that requires urgent and sustainable solutions. Towns, cities, communities and regular folk who love these butterflies are stepping up to try and do their part planting pollinator-friendly gardens in their yards and their green spaces, trying to help provide resources and habitats for them. This meeting reinvigorated our fight to implement experts’ conservation plans, and brought together a community dedicated to saving these species before time runs out.”

The Western Monarch population has declined by an estimated 99.9 percent, from as many as 10 million to 1,914 butterflies between the 1980s and 2021. While that number went up in 2022, climate chaos is making it even more difficult to save the Western Monarch. Over the last (2022-2023) winter, the monarch population fell by 58 percent – to around 116,000 butterflies. It was a disastrous year for the Western Monarch.

Last year, Senator Merkley held the first of its kind Monarch Summit in the U.S. Capitol to hear ideas from scientists, experts, and elected leaders for a path forward.

At the end of the 2022 summit, Merkley and Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland announced a one million dollar investment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Conservation Fund and the establishment of a Pollinator Conservation Center at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Merkley secured funding for both these projects in the Fiscal Year 2022 government spending bills.

In the year since those announcements, the Center for Pollinator Conservation was officially launched in December, and the Center has officially named its first director, Nicole Alt. Under her leadership the Center will focus on three key themes:

  • Highlighting the importance of pollinators;
  • Understanding and responding to the threats they face; and
  • Identifying and coordinating actions across the Service and with other partners where possible to reverse declines.

With 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants, and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depending on animal pollinators to reproduce, ensuring pollinator survival means ensuring our own survival. This year’s Monarch and pollinator gathering brought together staff from the Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and conservation experts from around the country to continue the important conversation on how to protect the Monarch butterfly and other critical pollinators. The summit also provided an opportunity to reinvigorate momentum to get bills like the MONARCH Act and Pollinator Power Act passed and signed into law.