Letter on Iowa monarch conservation sent to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


On March 2, 2015, the following letter was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as part of the public comment period in the agency's status review to determine whether to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act.

In response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service request for comments to help inform the status review for the potential listing of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) under the Endangered Species Act, we are providing the following information concerning conservation efforts for the species and its habitat in the state of Iowa.

Iowa organizations representing farmers, livestock producers and conservation interests, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa State University, recently formed an Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium as an outcome of state-wide discussions that began in the spring of 2014. Iowa State University is serving as the convener of the consortium.

The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium establishes a farmer-led, scientifically-based approach to enhancing monarch butterfly reproduction in Iowa through collaborative and coordinated efforts of farmers, private citizens and their organizations.

A research component of the consortium’s effort will establish a sound scientific foundation for Iowa’s monarch butterfly conservation program. Objectives of the research include: 1) developing cost-effective methods to establish and maintain milkweed species and companion plants in rural, suburban and urban landscapes; 2) evaluating breeding habitat patch characteristics and spatial arrangements to maintain and promote larval production and population viability; and 3) refining survey designs and sampling protocols to monitor milkweed habitat and larval and adult monarch populations to assess performance of the conservation program.

The consortium’s extension and outreach program, which draws upon all the member organizations, complements the research effort to ensure the broad delivery of practical, science-based information on conservation practices for Iowa’s landscapes. Habitat improvements in rural landscapes will target underutilized areas that do not conflict with agricultural land use, are sufficient in scale to support improved monarch breeding success, and strive to complement other conservation programs.

The consortium efforts are underway. For example, Iowa State currently is raising approximately 10,000 milkweed seedlings of several species in greenhouses. The milkweed will be planted later this year on 13 ISU Research and Demonstration Farms distributed throughout the state. These initial plots will begin providing data to address environmental and agronomic variables that are central to optimizing milkweed stand success, and monarch reproductive performance, in the four major land resource areas in Iowa.

Iowa’s broad-based consortium will establish effective, science-based guidelines for farmers, citizens and organizations on conserving and restoring monarch butterfly breeding habitat. The coordinated research and extension/outreach components of the consortium will also ensure that resources invested in conservation have a high likelihood of successfully supporting monarch butterfly populations. Iowa’s conservation program may also serve to establish collaborative partnerships with other Midwestern states to enhance reproductive success throughout the monarch’s summer breeding range.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide information concerning Iowa’s current and on-going conservation efforts and trust it will be helpful in informing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s status review for the potential listing of the monarch butterfly.

If you require any additional information, please contact Dean Wendy Wintersteen at Iowa State University.

Wendy Wintersteen, Dean
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Iowa State University

Bill Northey, Secretary of Agriculture
Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Chuck Gipp, Director
Iowa Department of Natural Resources


And on behalf of:

Matt Deppe, Chief Executive Officer
Iowa Cattlemen’s Association

Jerry Mohr, President
Iowa Corn Growers Association

Craig Hill, President
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation

Rich Degner, Chief Executive Officer
Iowa Pork Producers Association

Kirk Leeds, Chief Executive Officer
Iowa Soybean Association

Gretta Irwin, Executive Director and Home Economist
Iowa Turkey Federation

Stefan Gailans, Research Scientist and Cooperators' Program Manager
Practical Farmers of Iowa

Joe McGovern, President
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Jan Glendenning, State Director
Iowa Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

Jim Gulliford, Executive Director
Soil and Water Conservation Society

Nancy DeLong, Director Sustainable Agriculture Systems
DuPont Pioneer

Eric Sachs, Ph.D.
Regulatory Policy & Scientific Affairs
Social, Economic & Environment Platform