Interior Department Commits to Urgent Actions to Conserve the Monarch Butterfly

Summit brings together experts and policymakers to discuss current science, identify solutions to save the species

Last edited 02/07/2024

Date: Thursday, June 23, 2022

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Martha Williams and Senator Jeff Merkley joined science experts and policymakers at the first-ever Monarch Butterfly Summit in Washington, DC, on June 22-23, 2022. 

The two-day summit was organized to share the latest science and conservation actions being taken to address the long-term population decline of the western monarch butterfly, bringing together key stakeholders from across the science and policy communities to identify priority actions to conserve the western monarch butterfly. Leading experts provided the current state of the science, natural history, population status, habitats and barriers to conservation success. 

During the summit, Secretary Haaland and Senator Merkley announced steps that the Department will take to invest in monarch conservation:

  • The Department will award $1 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (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.
  • 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. 

Monarch butterflies are one of the most iconic species of our nation. In the 1980s, more than 4.5 million monarchs overwintered along the California Coast. Currently, the western overwintering population has declined by more than 95 percent. In 2020, western monarch numbers dropped to all-time lows when only 1,900 overwintering monarchs were observed. In 2021, biologists and the public alike were greeted with the news that monarch numbers were heading in the right direction with approximately 250,000 monarchs estimated at overwintering groves along the coast of California. 

There is no single cause for the extreme multi-decade drop in the western monarch butterfly overwintering population numbers. Multiple factors have contributed to the long-term decline, including habitat loss and degradation in overwintering groves and breeding areas, pesticides, and the effects of climate change, including drought, increased storm frequency and severity, and temperature extremes. As with many insects, monarch populations likely fluctuate in response to changes in temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors.

Conservation efforts are focused on an all-hands-on-deck collaborative approach, engaging a broad array of partners to enact large and small-scale conservation efforts for the benefit of monarchs and their habitats. Outcomes from this week’s summit will further contribute to the conservation of this iconic species.


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