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Monarch butterfly habitat focus of new environmental program
by Steve Parasido
February 25, 2018

Citing concerns of a 90 percent drop in the monarch butterfly population over the last 20 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the availability of a new program to assist farmer and landowners in conserving monarch butterflies, primarily by establishing milkweed habitats.

Starting in 2018, the NRCS will target financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Monarch Habitat Initiative for implementing designated practices that create or improve monarch habitat. Payment is provided after the practices have been installed and determined to meet NRCS standards.

Some of these practices include conservation cover, field borders, prescribed burning and brush management. Eligible landowners may be able to receive financial assistance to offset the cost of establishing or improving pollinator and monarch habitat, according to Michigan Farm Bureau Ag Ecology Manager, Laura Campbell.

“One way landowners and farmers can help is by participating in one of the pollinator protection programs offered by FSA under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and a new offering in Michigan from NRCS under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP),” Campbell explained. “MFB along with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners are promoting the development of a habitat management plan for the Monarch butterfly.”

This habitat management plan, in coordination with other state plans, will be submitted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to demonstrate that landowners, state and federal agencies, scientists and universities are committed to taking the actions needed to help the Monarch recover without the need for listing under the Endangered Species Act and all the regulation that comes with it.

Local NRCS offices will accept applications for conservation financial assistance on a continuous basis. Applications may be submitted at local field offices or online using the Conservation Client Gateway. On designated dates, applications are ranked and selected for funding. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has indicated that the agency will begin evaluating monarch conservation measures across the migration route with a decision expected in 2019 on whether to designate monarchs a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

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