Monarch butterflies in western North America are in trouble. What was once a huge number of monarchs that converged on overwintering sites in coastal California has dwindled year after year. The number of butterflies has fallen by over 95% since the 1980s, with declines also observed in breeding populations during the spring and summer. With monarch numbers dipping so low, more and more people are wondering what they can do to help recover the butterfly and milkweed—its host plant—across the West.
To guide conservation efforts, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has published Managing for Monarchs in the West: Best Management Practices for Conserving the Monarch Butterfly and its Habitat. This document combines the best-available science with land manager knowledge to provide recommendations for managing monarch breeding and migratory habitat.
Managing for Monarchs in the West provides a summary of the known effects of frequently used land management practices—grazing, mowing, prescribed fire, and pesticides—on monarchs and their breeding and migratory habitat, followed by best management practices (BMPs) for how to integrate monarch conservation in management decisions. Guidance on timing management activities gives managers the confidence of when they can mow, burn, or graze land without disrupting breeding monarchs. Invasive non-native and noxious plant management, recreation, and climate change impacts are also addressed.
To help reverse the western monarchs’ population trend, we need to improve protection and management of the butterfly’s habitat across its range—especially on public lands. These BMPs provide actionable, practical guidance that empowers western land managers to be part of the solution.