Statement: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service punts on decision to list monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act

However, an agency half-step does acknowledge the need for greater protection for the butterfly
For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released findings Tuesday that the monarch butterfly is eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Nevertheless, the agency stated that the butterfly’s listing is impeded by higher-priority considerations at this time. The monarch’s status will be reviewed annually until listing is granted or further action is deemed unnecessary.

In 2014, the agency received a petition to list the butterfly, which led to a scientific review. The study found that habitat loss, climate change and pesticide exposure were top threats to the species. In addition, these dangers also impact milkweed, the sole food source of monarch caterpillars. 

Along with those concerns, this decision comes after record lows in the western monarch’s population totals, which have dropped to an estimate of below 2,000 this year. The butterflies were once abundant with a western population of 1.2 million in 1997. 

Environment America Conservation Director Steve Blackledge issued the following statement:

“I don’t know whether to grieve, cheer or boo. It’s horrifying that the monarch’s population has fallen so low; it’s great to hear that the Fish and Wildlife Service, after conducting an ‘intensive, thorough review,’ agrees that the monarch deserves new protections. And it’s absurd that the agency is punting on any sort of plan to protect this important species.

“This trying year has reminded us just how much we need beauty in our world. We never want to see the day when the majestic and colorful monarch butterfly no longer floats on the breeze. 

”We urge the incoming Biden administration to fix this situation. The monarch needs and deserves the full and immediate protection of the Endangered Species Act, which remains America’s best tool to stop extinction.” 

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Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which runs organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world, a set of core values, and a strategic approach to getting things done.