Monsanto has announced $4 million in funding to protect monarch butterfly populations, mainly through the restoration of milkweed habitat in North America.
The company on Tuesday committed $3.6 million over three years to the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, as well as $400 thousand in funding for universities and non-profit organizations involved in monarch conservation.
It’s estimated that over the last two decades, the monarch population in North America has dropped from 1 billion to less than 60 million. The loss of habitat has been a primary contributor to the decline, as monarch caterpillars feed solely on milkweed.
“While weed management has been a factor in the decline of milkweed habitat, the agricultural sector can absolutely be part of the solution in restoring it,” said Brett Begemann, president and chief operating officer of Monsanto. “We’re proud to collaborate with non-profits, universities, researchers, farmers and others to find ways to improve and protect monarch habitat across North America.”
The University of Guelph is among the recipients, receiving a grant to study butterfly migration patterns to identify priority areas for milkweed restoration in the U.S. and Canada.
Other projects involve milkweed seed and plant production, identifying public and private land suitable for monarch habitat and education on how to establish sustainable habitat for the butterflies.
Monsanto says its goals for the funding include the following:
- Supporting expansion and improvement of more than 10 million acres of quality, distributed habitat by 2025.
- Funding additional efforts in 2015 and thereafter by conservation groups to further restore sustainable quality milkweed/pollinator habitat across the critical range for monarch breeding and migration
- Providing 100,000 milkweed plants for planting into priority landscapes where quality habitat is needed
- Developing and adopting Best Management Practices (BMPs) for quality habitat installation and landscape improvement
- Reaching 100,000 growers with guidance and BMPs for creating and protecting monarch habitat
- Implementing web-based monitoring and reporting tools to track and measure progress annually
- Annually quantifying progress and prioritizing on-going milkweed habitat restoration efforts
- Developing a county-level scoring system to prioritize habitat restoration by 2016
- Organizing a rights-of-way workshop to drive progress in this opportunity area
- Leveraging the capabilities of the company’s scientists and applying advanced technologies in seed treatments, seed manufacturing, distribution, and data science to advance knowledge and improve the capacity and speed of delivery of habitat restoration programs
- Annually reporting on Monsanto’s progress toward the delivery of improved habitat restoration technologies
- Building and helping to fund a broad public-private partnership to restore monarch/pollinator habitat on public and private lands in overwintering sites and throughout the monarch breeding range
Milkweed is generally considered poisonous for livestock, and is still recognized as a noxious weed in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. It was removed from Ontario’s Weed Control Act in 2014.