North Texas Ranchers, Conservationists Team Up to Save Monarch Butterflies

"One of the things that's important to us is serving the land before we serve ourselves."

Each year monarch butterflies help welcome spring to North Texas as they fly through the metroplex on an annual migration from Mexico, where they spend their winters, to Canada, where they go for the summer.

However, the species' population has dropped by 95 percent over the last 30 years, according to the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange. Much of the decline has to do with the loss of the butterfly's habitat across its migration route, which includes Texas.

In response to the population loss, the Environmental Defense Fund launched the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange, which has teamed up with ranches, including five in Texas, to rehabilitate a plant that the monarchs' rely on to breed, called milkweed.

"It concerns me deeply that monarch butterflies as a species are declining at such an incredibly accelerated rate," said Amy Greer, one of the ranchers registered with the exchange. "When you started seeing massive declines in numbers of populations, it's something we should all be paying attention to and something we should all worry about and be actively trying to solve those problems."

Greer is a rancher at Winters-Wall Ranch in Brady, which is in Central Texas. Three of the other Texas ranches working with the exchange are in the Austin area, while the fifth is Wagley Ranch near Mineral Wells.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering placing the monarch butterfly on its endangered species list, according to an EDF official -- something he thinks would surprise people.

"It's not like some rare species that you never see," said David Wolfe, the Director of Conservation Strategies for the EDF. "The monarch is something everyone knows and generally loves and it has this amazing migratory phenomenon, which is unique within the animal world."

"One of the things that's important to us is serving the land before we serve ourselves," George Greer, also of Winters-Wall Ranch, said. "That's what this program is helping us do."

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