Monarch butterfly numbers under threat

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service starts species review for black-and-orange butterfly. A far-flying butterfly known to pass through Central Oregon may land on the Endangered Species list. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct a “status review” of the monarch butterfly to see if it deserves federal endangered species protection.

The regulatory step does not mean the agency will place the monarch on the endangered or protected list, but its decision ensures a comprehensive review of up to a year. The agency determined that environmental and food safety groups had presented “substantial information” supporting the review.

Environmental groups hailed last week’s announcement, calling it a “vital first step” to give stronger protection for the iconic butterfly, which scientists say is threatened by the loss of wintering forest habitat in Mexico and milkweed essential to its reproduction in the United States and Canada.

St. Louis-based Monsanto, creator of the Roundup herbicide and Roundup Ready crops cited by environmental and food-safety groups as major contributors to the butterfly’s decline, said it was already working with farm groups, federal agencies and nonprofits to restore monarch habitat.

Monarchs’ annual 3,000-mile migrations from wintering pine forests in Mexico to summer homes in the U.S. and Canada cover large swaths of the Midwest, including Missouri and Illinois. The Missouri Department of Conservation has called the monarch “perhaps the most recognized butterfly in Missouri,” and “a beautiful creature with a fascinating life cycle.”

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