USDA in mid-November announced a new conservation effort to help agricultural producers in Iowa and nine other states provide food and habitat for monarch butterflies. This targeted effort in the Midwest and southern Great Plains by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $4 million in 2016 to help combat the iconic species' decline.
"These once-common butterflies are growing less familiar, and we know private lands will continue to play a crucial role in aiding the recovery of this species that serves as an indicator of ecosystem health," said Kurt Simon, NRCS state conservationist in Iowa. "Iowa's farmers are stewards of the land, and this effort helps them make voluntary improvements that benefit working lands and monarchs."
Monarch butterflies need native plants like milkweed to survive
The orange-and-black butterflies are known for their annual, multi-generational migration from central Mexico to as far north as Canada. Monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants like milkweed – the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars.
NRCS will provide technical and financial assistance to help producers and conservation partners make butterfly-friendly improvements to farms and ranches.
Assistance is available to producers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin. These states are at the heart of the monarch migration. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program and remaining funds from the former Wetlands Reserve Program provide funding for this work. Additionally, NRCS is offering support for related enhancements through the Conservation Stewardship Program to establish monarch habitat. These enhancements are available nationwide.
Conservation improvements also improve other natural resources
In Iowa, NRCS is focusing on integrating milkweed and high-nectar plants in all suitable areas, including along field borders, in buffers along waterways or around wetlands, or in pastures.
These conservation improvements not only benefit butterflies, they also strengthen agricultural operations, support other beneficial insects and wildlife and improve other natural resources. Appropriate buffer habitats and better rangeland and pasture management practices reduce erosion, increase soil health, inhibit the expansion of invasive species and provide food and habitat for insects and wildlife.
NRCS accepts EQIP and CSP applications from producers on a continuous basis. Producers interested in participating should contact their local USDA service center to learn more. WRP funds will be used to enhance monarch habitat on existing wetland easements.
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Iowa Department Of Ag and Pathfinders RC&D receive $227,400 grant to establish Monarch habitat
Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship and Pathfinders RC&D recently received a $227,400 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to establish monarch habitat on 3,311 acres of privately owned land in Iowa. The Department and Pathfinders RC&D will provide $227,500 in matching funds to support the project.
The funds will be used in partnership with four current programs to establish monarch habitat as part of conservation efforts. The programs that will be part of the grant are the Buffer Initiative Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Abandoned Mine Land Program, and Urban Conservation Program. "These funds will allow us to better incorporate habitat into our existing conservation programs that will benefit monarchs and other pollinators," said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.
Goal is to protect, conserve and increase habitat for pollinators
In 2015 the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) established the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund to protect, conserve, and increase habitat for these insects and other pollinators. The Fund supports efforts for growth of monarch butterfly population numbers, with a goal of stabilizing the population and continuing its migratory phenomenon.
NFWF received 115 proposals, with a total request of more than $19.5 million. The 22 projects chosen represent a total award amount of $3,310,668, which will be further influenced by $6,691,153 in grantee matching contributions for a total on-the-ground impact of $10,001,821. The full release from NFWF can be found at nfwf.org/whoweare/mediacenter/pr/Pages/monarch_pr_15-0928.aspx.