Laura Bush and Texan by Nature Partners with State, Federal Agencies to Restore the Monarch Butterfly
DALLAS, October 16, 2015 - Conservation efforts for the Texas monarch and other native pollinators took center stage at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas this morning when Former First Lady and Founder of Texan By Nature Laura Bush, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Executive Director Carter Smith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Dan Ashe, and President and CEO Collin O’Mara of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) unveiled a conservation plan to help sustain native pollinators and their survival in Texas.
“In order for Texas to remain a thriving central flyway for the Monarch butterfly, we must join together to conserve and create essential monarch habitat,” said Mrs. Laura Bush. “Conservation truly begins at home, and with more Texans lending their time, expertise, land, and resources, we can ensure that the Monarch butterfly – the state insect of Texas – is here to stay.”
The Texas Monarch/Native Pollinator Conservation Plan will be implemented by a task force of stakeholders and will focus on preserving the North American monarch migration. The plan outlines actions that will contribute to monarch and overall native pollinator conservation in Texas by highlighting four broad categories of: habitat conservation, education and outreach, research and monitoring, and partnerships.
This interagency working group consists of the collaborative efforts of TPWD, USFWS, NWF, Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Lower Colorado River Authority, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the University of Texas at San Antonio, just to name a few.
The working group has been tasked with identifying U.S. priorities and actions for monarch conservation for the state.
Due to their dependence on habitat containing floral resources and host plants, monarchs, along with 30 other species of native pollinator and flower-visiting species like bees, butterflies, and moths, have been identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in TPWD’s Texas Conservation Action Plan.
The staggering decline in the population of eastern North American migrating monarchs has raised concern from the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico, and given its strategic position along the species migratory pathway, Texas plays a critical role in the conservation efforts for these native pollinators
Participating partners of the state conservation plan have determined the most successful pollinator management practices to incorporate into their existing programs. These efforts are focused on contributing to the overall health of the monarch and native pollinator population.
Texan by Nature’s new Monarch Wrangler program provides Texas employers, organizations, and individuals with results-oriented and meaningful ways to create habitat essential to the monarch butterfly on corporate campuses, at places of worship, and in their own backyards. As one of the first Monarch Wrangler corporate projects, BAE Systems, a military defense, electronics, and aerospace company, will be planting and conserving Monarch habitat on their Austin campus at the center of the Monarch’s route through Texas. For more information on Texan by Nature’s Monarch Wrangler program, visit www.texanbynature.org.
TPWD currently has a number of habitat conservation and management activities being conducted on state wildlife management areas, state parks and state natural areas, and will be revising some of their current management practices to enhance native pollinator resources on state owned lands.
“It is one of nature’s most astonishing sights to witness as millions of monarch butterflies descend upon the Texas landscape each spring and fall. Due to the sharp decline witnessed over the last decade in the monarch population, conservationists and philanthropists are coming together in an unprecedented partnership to preserve this majestic creature,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Together, state, federal and non-governmental organizations are partnering to adopt conservation practices that all Texans can utilize that will enhance native landscapes for the monarch butterfly and ensure their migrations will be around for future generations to enjoy."
The TPWD Wildlife Division is also developing native pollinator management guidelines to assist private landowners in creating a wildlife management plan.
Some current management practices for other species, such as grassland birds, have the potential to indirectly benefit native pollinators, according to TPWD experts, but they do not always accommodate the full life-history needs of a diverse assemblage of native pollinator species. For that reason, development and dissemination of protocols geared directly at the management of native pollinators are needed to fully address issues regarding monarch and overall native pollinator conservation on private lands.
Other projects to be implemented by TPWD include, but are not limited to, re-vegetation efforts and a joint-collaboration with TXDoT’s maintenance division regarding the incorporation of native plant species and native pollinator-friendly management practices into their existing wildflower program.
TXDoT is also planning to partner with the USFWS and the Native Plant Society of Texas to establish and maintain monarch gardens at safety rest areas. These gardens will provide important habitat components for the monarch migration, including native nectar-and-host plants.
NWF will be working in urban areas throughout the Monarch Central Flyway to engage and support local governments, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and citizens taking effective action toward monarch recovery.
“Recovering monarch butterflies and other pollinator populations across our nation requires collaborative efforts exactly like the partnership in Texas where local, state and federal leaders have come together to create habitat at-scale. Texas is already a national leader in pollinator protection, with mayors across the state taking action as part of NWF’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, "and the launch of this statewide action plan is the key next step. Whether you live in Minnesota or Maine, your monarchs migrate through Texas, and this partnership has the power to help monarchs across America by strengthening a critical link in the chain of monarch migration.”
As part of its urban outreach effort in selected major cities within the Monarch Central Flyway, NWF is recruiting and mobilizing a local Monarch Network, representing key city staff and appropriate local NGO’s, corporate citizens and others willing to help on the ground, to develop and implement a local monarch recovery plan.
In September, NWF developed and launched a Mayor’s Monarch Pledge. Through the pledge, participating mayors will commit to supporting monarch recovery through specific actions, including: launching a public communication effort to encourage citizen monarch gardens; planting a major demonstration garden at City Hall or another prominent location, creating monarch habitat in public parks and on other local property, modifying management of city parks and other public lands to better support monarchs, modifying local ordinances to remove any obstacles to planting milkweed, supporting milkweed seed collection and propagation effort, and many other actions that will increase monarch habitat in the city.
Other projects in the works by NWF include the mobilization of NWF’s existing network of Backyard Wildlife Habitats and Community Wildlife Habitats to create new monarch habitat in the central flyway.
The USFWS’s Southwest region is deeply invested in the conservation of pollinators and has recognized Texas as the core of the migratory flyway for the Eastern monarch population and as the state with the highest diversity of milkweed species in the U.S. with 37 known species.
"Restoring breeding and migration habitat across Texas is crucial to reversing the monarch butterfly’s alarming decline. But we can’t ensure the habitat that monarchs need without the help of landowners across the Lone Star State," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "That’s why we’re excited to partner with Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texan By Nature to engage and inspire people around the state to plant native milkweed and make their land more friendly to monarchs and other pollinators."
In June 2014, President Obama issued a memorandum acknowledging the importance of pollinators setting the national direction for pollinator issues and called for a strategy to address four themes: research, education, habitat and partnerships.
In response the memorandum, Ashe challenged the USFWS regions to incorporate monarch and pollinator conservation into ongoing activities and highlight new opportunities, particularly in geographic areas within the migratory flyway.
In August, Ashe announced his commitment to spending $4 million, starting this month, to support partnership-driven, landscape-scale monarch conservation projects. The USFWS is committed to continuing their efforts to support monarch butterflies and other pollinators in Texas and throughout the southwest.
More information about monarchs and other native pollinators can be found at http://tpwd.texas.gov/monarch