AMES, Iowa - On July 21, 2022, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified the migratory North American monarch butterfly as endangered. The IUCN estimated 22 to 72% declines in adult monarchs over the past decade, with the western population at the greatest risk of extinction. While the IUCN provides information to support conservation efforts to public, private and non-governmental organizations around the world, its recommendations do not have regulatory authority in the United States.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has regulatory authority through the Endangered Species Act to determine if the monarch should be listed as an endangered or threatened species in the US. In December 2020, the USFWS determined the monarch butterfly was warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act. At that time, the listing was precluded because other species had higher priority, and significant, voluntary monarch conservation was being implemented across the country. The USFWS said it anticipated revisiting the monarch’s status in 2024.
Monarch butterflies, familiar to most Americans, depend on milkweed and nectar plants to survive. Female monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants, the only food monarch caterpillars eat. Adult monarchs need nectar from flowering plants during the spring and summer breeding seasons to support reproduction and fuel their migration to Mexico during the fall. Therefore, increasing the number of milkweeds and nectar-producing plants is vitally important for monarch conservation.
To stimulate conservation of the monarch, the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium supports proactive, voluntary efforts that are necessary to preserving the species. The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium was established in 2015 and is a group of 50 organizations, including agricultural and conservation associations, agribusiness and utility companies, universities and federal agencies.