Merkley, Interior Department Announce $1 Million and Dedicated Pollinator Center to Address Monarch Butterfly Decline

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a $1 million investment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Conservation Fund, and the establishment of a Pollinator Conservation Center at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Both projects are supported by the western monarch conservation funding Senator Merkley secured as Chairman of the Interior, Environment & Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill.

The announcement was made during a two-day summit hosted by Senator Merkley, in collaboration with the Department of the Interior, on preserving the monarch butterfly at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC. The event brought together key stakeholders across science and policy to identify solutions to reverse the cratering population of the monarch butterfly, particularly the western monarch.

“We’ve all experienced the moment of childhood joy and excitement when we spot a monarch butterfly fluttering through the air,” said Senator Merkley. “If we let the western monarch butterfly go extinct, we’ll lose an iconic, beautiful species – and a critical pollinator – forever. This is an urgent issue that requires urgent solutions. This year’s summit reinvigorated our fight to implement experts’ conservation plans, launched two new conservation efforts, and brought together a community dedicated to saving these species before time runs out. I look forward to seeing these efforts come to fruition, and for future generations to be able to enjoy the monarch butterfly.”

“When a pollinator is struggling, we have to examine how food production will be impacted, how the plants that rely on it will struggle, and to what extent climate change is tipping the balance of nature. The Monarch Butterfly plays an important part in this balance, but the steady decline in Monarch populations is cause for alarm,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “We won’t be able to save the Monarch Butterfly alone – we’ll need collaborative conservation, key partnerships and the help of everyone at this summit to ensure that we move ahead with purpose and a focus on working to restore the balance to all of nature.”  

Announcements at the summit included:

$1 Million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Conservation Fund 

A $1 million contribution for the NFWF Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund. This public-private partnership program will focus on the western monarch butterfly by improving the availability of high-quality habitat; increasing the capacity needed to expand conservation efforts into the future; and supporting the implementation of technical assistance to engage private landowners with pollinator conservation practices on working lands. By leveraging the resources and expertise of partners, the program aims to help reverse recent population declines and ensure the survival of the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. 

Establishment of a Pollinator Conservation Center at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The FWS will establish a Pollinator Conservation Center to address the decline of pollinators, including monarch butterflies. The Center, funded through annual appropriations, will support conservation decisions where they occur. Staff will not only work across all FWS programs and regions but also with other agencies and organizations as a hub for improving the state of science and the direct conservation actions that can reverse population trends.

Speakers across the two days of the summit included Senator Merkley; Interior Secretary Deb Haaland; Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Martha Williams; Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Shannon Estenoz; U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Alex Padilla (D-CA); Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA); and numerous experts on pollinators and conservation.

“Pollinator species are the backbone of life as we know it — essential to getting food on the table. The monarch butterfly’s decline is the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for all pollinators. Urgent action is needed to restore this iconic species,” said Senator Wyden. “Conversations like those had at this week’s summit, as well as increased on-the-ground collaboration is just what the doctor ordered.”

“Each year, Californians marvel at the beauty of monarchs as they migrate across international borders and throughout the state,” said Senator Padilla. “Climate change has exacerbated the recent, rapid decline of the monarch population and these devastating biodiversity impacts must serve as a call to action. In order to protect monarch butterflies and other vulnerable species, we must commit ourselves to conservation efforts and bold, transformative climate action.”

“I am proud to represent two major monarch groves on the Central Coast of California: Pismo Beach and Goleta. But over the past two decades, the Monarch population in California has dropped from more than a million to just a few thousand. This staggering statistic should be a wake up call for all of us,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Action must be taken, both by Congress and the Interior Department and our public and private partners, to protect monarchs and all species threatened by manmade disasters and climate change. It is not too late to help the monarch population rebound and flourish.”

“Monarch butterflies play a crucial role in our culture and agriculture on the central coast of California. Unfortunately, the dramatic depletions and fluctuations in their population demand that we act now to reinforce and restore such an important species,” said Rep Panetta. “That’s why I authored, and Congress passed the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act so that we can rebuild monarch habitats. But more needs to be done, including our continued work to pass the MONARCH Act for the conservation of this butterfly. The Monarch Summit is providing exactly the type of support and science we need to continue our work to convince our colleagues that we need to do more to protect this vital pollinator by passing more impactful pieces of legislation.”

This two-day event provided an opportunity for participants to share information on the current state of the science—including natural history, population status, and habitats—and barriers to conservation success for this iconic species. It also brought together policymakers and state and federal agencies to plan how to put the science into action. Accounting for the state of the science, Monarch Butterfly Summit participants developed specific recommendations and short-term actions to benefit the western monarch butterfly.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Congressman Jimmy Panetta have introduced two pieces of legislation—the Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat (MONARCH) Act, and the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act, which was passed into law—that would help prevent the extinction of the western monarch butterfly and other critically important pollinators.

Archived coverage of the summit’s announcements can be found here.