After one year of waiting, there is an impending lawsuit for the protection of monarch butterflies that will be brought forward by several conservation groups.
- The monarch butterflies boasted a population of 1 billion in the 1990s
- Today, there are only 60 million of them left
- The Center for Biological Diversity is threatening to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not responding to their 2014 petition
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently instated a new priority system to deal with backlog petitions
The monarch butterflies have been the center of attention for the past year, as far as conservationist efforts are concerned. The iconic insects that are known for their extensive migration paths, used to reach 1 billion in population across the world. Today, there are less than 60 million of them out there, due to “illegal deforestation and severe weather”. This has added to aggressive the use of herbicides, which killed their most valuable plant, milkweed.
In August, 2014, conservationists at the Center for Biological Diversity along with 40 monarch scientists submitted a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the purpose in mind of getting the butterflies on the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In December, 2014, the federal agency stated that they will review the case and make a decision.
However, over one year has passed and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has yet to reach a verdict.
The conservation groups are, thus, threatening to sue the agency if it continues to refuse to act on the protection of monarch butterflies. The organizations are pushing for an answer, even though the FWS did not have a scheduled date for addressing the issue. A spokesperson for the FWS instead stated that they’re hoping collaboration between national and international groups will continue in the meantime for the sake of preserving the iconic butterflies.
In fact, it’s in their hopes that efforts will reach such admiring heights that there will no longer be a need for the protection from the ESA.
Some scientists, however, have questioned the reasons behind the aggressive push to protect the monarchs. According to Nick Grishin, professor of biochemistry from the University of Texas, they are the most common species of butterflies in the world. If they are worthy of protection, then it means that 95% of all other butterfly species should deserve the same. The issue is that the monarchs are simply the most well-known around the world, according to Grishin.
In fact, he stated that the push is only used for politicians to draw the favor of the public or for some scientists to gain funding for their research programs.
Tierra Curry from the Center for Biological Diversity responded that just because the monarch butterflies are in high numbers, it doesn’t mean that they are not vulnerable. They have seen to a rapid, major decline in population and the climate changes alone have the potential of wiping them out. That is why the groups are pushing for their species’ protection.
However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reportedly have a backlog of 500 species waiting for the protection of the ESA. They have recently instated a “draft method” which helps them prioritize the cases that should be first considered. This will place critically endangered species over those where there is little information.
What should be in the concern of conservationists is that the FWS will de-prioritize species where voluntary conservation efforts are already in place. That means to offer a higher priority to those who are not under any sort of care. It’s likely that the method will draw controversy, especially in the case of the monarchs.
Image source: nyt.com