PORTLAND, Ore., February 21, 2017—The monarch, one of the best known and most beloved butterflies in North America, faces an uncertain future. Loss of milkweed is the most significant factor contributing to declines in the eastern United States, yet little is known about the reasons for decline west of the Rockies. To help fill this information gap, the Xerces Society is launching the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper, a web-based project to map and better understand monarchs and their milkweed host plants across the western U.S.
“Annual monitoring of overwintering monarchs in central Mexico and along the California coast has revealed significant population declines,” said Candace Fallon, the Xerces Society conservation biologist who is leading the project. “For the monarch to be protected, more information is needed on where milkweed grows and what areas are important for monarch breeding in western states.”
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Sightings submitted through the new Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper (WMMM) will improve our understanding of the distribution and phenology of monarchs and milkweeds in the West, directly addressing these data gaps.
“Your smart phone—or a digital camera and computer—are all you need to help us better understand monarch conservation needs,” noted Beth Waterbury, lead project partner and wildlife biologist with Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “It’s quick and easy to get started, so be sure to keep an eye out for monarchs and milkweeds when you’re out in your local parks, natural areas, and even roadsides this spring!”
This project is a collaboration between the Xerces Society, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, with funding from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service State Wildlife Grant and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The WMMM engages all of its users, from citizen scientists to biologists and other researchers, in western monarch conservation by providing a suite of tools to identify 46 western milkweed species, add milkweed and monarch sightings to a growing database and interactive map, and learn more about monarch and milkweed biology and conservation. A special feature of the website is the ability to explore and download over 40,000 monarch and milkweed records from 11 western states, spanning observations gathered from 1900 to the present day.
For More Information
Learn more about the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper: www.monarchmilkweedmapper.org/about
Read about the Xerces Society’s monarch conservation work: www.xerces.org/monarchs/
Learn more about the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s monarch work: https://idfg.idaho.gov/blog/2017/02/idahos-monarch-connection
Learn more about Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s conservation work: http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/cwcs/