Expanding on its efforts to save honey bee populations from extinction, the Obama administration's Pollinator Health Task Force now aims to create and maintain a 1,500-mile wildlife corridor along Interstate 35 for Monarch butterflies migrating between Mexico and Minnesota. The highway corridor will hopefully help increase Monarch butterfly populations in the central US, where food producers need bees and other pollinators to help grow their crops.
The new effort focuses on one migratory pathway Monarchs take during the year. Butterflies who winter in Mexico travel up through Texas during the spring, while subsequent generations make their way to Canada before eventually dispersing. Later generations travel back down the same route during the fall. However, due to factors like agriculture and climate change, populations along this route and others have dwindled by about 90 percent.
Monarch butterfly populations have fallen by about 90 percent in recent years
The I-35 corridor, which runs between Laredo, Texas and Duluth, Minnesota, will hopefully curtail those losses. A wildlife corridor is a habitat that connects populations cut off by human activities. The White House plans to allow the Department of Transportation and the Fish and Wildlife Service to rehabilitate the land and vegetation along the highway, allocating resources to educate "target audiences" about conservation efforts, while also working with the Mexican and Canadian governments on broader strategies that cross borders.
As the new strategy moves forward, the task force hopes that butterfly populations will bounce back. While Monarch numbers have fallen to 56.5 million in recent years, the corridor could see a shift back up to 225 million by 2020.