Congressman Panetta Calls for Monarch Protections

February 5, 2021
Press Release

This week, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley), Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24), and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-MA) sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling on the Principal Deputy Director to make substantial investments in monarch conservation efforts to protect the crucial pollinator from the risk of extinction.  On December 17, 2020 the Service announced that listing the monarch as endangered or threatened was warranted but was precluded by higher priority species.  This decision effectively puts the monarch butterfly on a waiting list but denies the species immediate protection.  Some species have been on the waiting list for decades and with 47 species having gone extinct while waiting for their protection to be finalized.


The monarch butterfly faces growing threats from habitat loss, global climate change, and disease.  The most recent population count for monarch butterflies shows a 99.9% decline in population for monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains, which overwinter in California.  Just two decades ago, roughly 1.2 million monarchs overwintered in California.  This year, that number is down to 1,914. The DFWS itself estimates that there is a 96-100% probability that the population of western monarch butterflies will collapse within 50 years.


“Climate change continues to degrade monarch habitats, making the Trump-era decision to not afford this critical pollinator the protections it needs even more damaging,” said Congressman Panetta.  “I’m calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make crucial investments immediately to protect this critical pollinator from extinction.  Our letter, coupled with my MONARCH Act, will help ensure we actively restore and protect key monarch habitats on the Central Coast and across the American West.”


“If the monarch’s precipitous decline continues, the Service must make prompt use of its emergency listing procedure to ensure its survival,” the lawmakers wrote.  “To ensure the monarch does not become the 48th species to go extinct while on the candidate list, we urge the Service to make substantial investments in bold conservation actions that not only prevent the butterfly from further decline but also ensure long-term population stability.”

The letter garnered support from 43 conservation organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity.


“We’re so grateful for the leadership of Reps. Carbajal and Panetta and Senator Merkley, who recognize that time is running out for America’s most iconic butterfly,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity.  “Monarchs can no longer afford inaction.  Without emergency help, these beautiful orange and black butterflies are on a sure path toward extinction.  We need to be doing everything we can to save them and fight the extinction crisis. This letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that urgency.”


Full text of the letter can be found here.

Groups who have endorsed the letter:

Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Institute, Asheville Alternatives to Pesticides, Beyond Pesticides, Born Free USA, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Conservation Council For Hawaii, Conservation Northwest, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, Environmental Center of San Diego, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife, Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Great Lakes Wildlife Alliance, Heartwood, International Marine, Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, Juniata Valley Audubon Society, Kansas Rural Center, Klamath Forest Alliance, LEAD for Pollinators, Inc., Maine Audubon, Maryland Pesticide Education Network, Mass Audubon, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Hampshire Audubon, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, NY4WHALES, Oceanic Preservation Society, Pelican Island Audubon Society, Pesticide Action Network, Resource Renewal Institute, Save Our Allegheny Ridges, Toxic Free North Carolina, Turtle Island Restoration Network, UNI Center for Energy & Environmental Education, Western Watersheds Project, Wild Farm Alliance, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.