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Conservation Actions for Electric Power Companies to Support Monarch Butterflies

Threats to pollinators may have profound consequences for ecosystem health as well as our food systems. Concerns about pollinator declines and associated repercussions have led to increased efforts by non-governmental organizations and both public and private sectors to reduce threats to pollinators. One of the most iconic pollinator species, the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus), is recognized and celebrated by people throughout North America; the butterfly’s annual migration stretches from southern Canada to Mexico, covering most of the lower 48 United States during the spring and summer. But monarchs are in trouble. The overwintering population in central Mexico has declined by ~80% since the 1990s. The overwintering population in coastal California has declined by 97% since the 1980s and, in winter of 2018–2019, the population crashed to a mere 0.6% of its historic size. Threatened by habitat loss, insecticides and herbicides, climate change, and other stressors, the species is now being considered for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Contributions to species conservation efforts can therefore be investments toward helping a species rebound and averting a listing. Electric power companies have an opportunity to play a part in the monarch’s recovery. They own and/or manage a substantial amount of land and associated natural resources across North America, including transmission and distribution rights-of-way (ROW), solar fields, wind fields, buffer areas surrounding power plants and substations, and “surplus” land holdings. These acres hold the potential to create a network of habitat to support monarchs and other pollinators across their breeding range. Together, power companies have an opportunity to make a difference by considering the needs of these important animals when managing habitat and revegetating land.