NRCS Program to Improve Monarch Butterfly Habitat
March 31, 2016
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on November 12th a new conservation effort to help agricultural producers provide food and habitat for monarch butterflies in the Midwest and southern Great Plains. This targeted 10-state effort by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $4 million in 2016 to help combat the iconic species’ decline.
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.
“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,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are stewards of the land, and this effort helps them make voluntary improvements that benefit working lands and monarchs.”
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 plant milkweed and nectar-rich plants along field borders, in buffers along waterways or around wetlands, in pastures and other suitable locations. NRCS also help producers manage their pastures in ways that increase critical populations of milkweed and nectar plants while also improving the health of their rangelands.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and remaining funds from the former Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) provide funding for this work. Additionally, NRCS is offering support for related enhancements through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to establish monarch habitat. These enhancements are available nationwide.
NRCS accepts EQIP and CSP applications from producers on a continuous basis. Some states may announce a date by which they will review all previously accepted applications. In Missouri that date is May 20th.
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.