Monarch recovery focus of state symposium

The recovery of the Monarch butterfly was the focus of the recent South-Central Monarch Symposium held at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.

Hosted by Texan by Nature which was founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, the symposium brought together upwards of 200 attendees representing ranchers, researchers, conservation agencies, Non-Government Organizations and citizen conservationists. These partners gathered together with one goal in mind – begin the development of a conservation Monarch recovery strategy for the Texas-Oklahoma flyway region.

“The Monarch butterfly is the most iconic and beloved insect in the world,” said former First Lady Laura Bush who gave the symposium’s Keynote address.

She encouraged those in attendance to spur conservation efforts that build conservation targets and produce tangible benefits for people and nature, while also acknowledging the greatest challenge is restoring abundant habitat and food sources.

“The choices we make now will shape the world for the next generation,” said Bush.

Experts agree that the Monarch butterfly population continues to face a significant decline. Today’s population is estimated at 34 million. This is a steep decline from the estimated 1 billion population in 1995.

Overall, the symposium consisted of 50 speakers, two afternoon working group discussions and lightning talks. College students also had poster presentations and conservation agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) set up a table to provide conservation information.

Symposium topics ranged from state of the Monarch, availability and distribution of milkweed and nectar resources in the South-Central region, species population risks, to the private landowner perspective on Monarch conservation provided by three ranches.

NRCS was one of the agencies invited to speak during the symposium. NRCS speakers included Russell Castro, NRCS state wildlife biologist; Lori Ziehr, landscape planning and Rob Ziehr, plants materials specialist who spoke on agency habitat restoration and enhancement efforts and opportunities through conservation planning, practices and Farm Bill programs. Castro also served on the steering and conservation planning committees.

The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project is a Texas NRCS project focused on developing butterfly friendly habitat improvements on private lands in a targeted 28 county flyway focal area. This project has the potential to impact 180,000 acres utilizing funds and technical assistance through NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP. Conservation efforts will focus on enhancing Monarch habitat through a diversity of native plants and also promoting land management practices that promote pollinator plants.

“The efforts by Texan by Nature in bringing together the leading Monarch partners to this symposium, was the spring board for present and future efforts in reducing the decline of the species,” said  Castro. “I anticipate some outcomes of this symposium being more cohesive efforts and relationships between agencies and organizations focused on Monarch conservation and the many challenges impacting this beautiful species.”

For more information on the technical and financial assistance provided by NRCS on Monarch conservation efforts contact your local NRCS office.

Monarch recovery focus of state symposium, Beverly Moseley, USDA-NRCS State Public Affairs Director (2017, June)