Perspectives on the 2020 Western Monarch Summit

The following is a letter sent on January 15, 2020 to all members of the Pacific Grove City Council and the Beautification and Natural Resources Committee regarding the opinions of three experts on the current state of the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary.


Perspectives gained from the 2020 Western Monarch Summit January 10 – 12, 2020
Palo Corona Regional Park, Carmel, CA

Dear members of the City Council and BNRC,

Larry Hulberg and Tama Olver distributed an excellent summary of the 2020 Western Monarch Summit held this past weekend. Their summary of the presentations at the conference is accurate and I agree with all of their recommended actions. The purpose of this letter is to provide additional perspectives that I gained from attending the conference.

This was the first conference organized by a small group of monarch conservationists from Southern Oregon named Western Monarch Advocates. In correspondence with the Chair of that organization, Robert Coffan, prior to the conference Mr. Coffan expressed to me his wish that this first conference be a success. He expressed to me and to other attendees that he wanted to avoid contentious discussions that are common within the monarch conservation community. For the most part almost everyone honored his request, and the public forums at the conference were a great success as Larry and Tama have documented in their Summary.

I had several objectives in attending the conference. The first was to learn more about monarch biology and current conservation efforts. The second was to network with monarch experts from across the USA to learn their personal viewpoints about critical issues and to establish lines of correspondence for their advice in the future. My third objective was to solicit the opinions of experts who visited the PG Monarch Sanctuary about the current status of the Sanctuary habitat.

The public forums at the conference provided abundant information to satisfy my first objective. However, my second and third objective could only be met by engaging in private discussions with experts one on one. I had three such discussions each with a highly regarded expert within the community of monarch experts and who had personally visited the Sanctuary during discretionary time this past weekend.

Each of the experts volunteered their opinion that the public discussion at the conference was “sidestepping” a number of contentious issues for the agreed upon goal of a successful conference. One of the experts was angered that he was asked not to raise controversial issues but he agreed to in the interest of maintaining harmony. Each of the experts acknowledged that there are many controversial issues within the monarch conservation community that they are willing to discuss in private but not in public. I want to focus here on one of those issues: the current status of the monarch habitat at the Sanctuary.

People are often hesitant to raise difficult or unpleasant topics but as Dr. David James, who spoke about the use of pesticides at the Summit, pointed out it is sometimes necessary if an urgent change is needed. I asked three of the experts that visited the Sanctuary last weekend for their opinion of the current state of the monarch habitat. They each responded without

hesitation that the habitat in the Sanctuary is in very bad shape. We did not discuss the reasons for the decline in the habitat but all of the experts commented that the Sanctuary is much too open to provide the needed protection for overwintering monarchs. All of the experts commented that more trees need to be planted. We did not discuss the exact locations for planting new trees but all of the experts suggested that a new comprehensive plan was needed to restore the monarch habitat.

Throughout the conference many speakers emphasized the importance of overwintering sites along the central California coast and the fact that many sites continue to be lost every year. As the owners of the Monarch Sanctuary it is the responsibility of the City of Pacific Grove to develop a new plan to restore the monarch habitat. I encourage the BNRC and City Council to acknowledge that the current management plan for the Sanctuary is not working and establish a commission to develop a new plan. Input to the new plan should come from all stakeholders including the Museum of Natural History, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, BNRC, the PG Department of Public Works and, importantly, the residents of Pacific Grove. The plan should include a restatement of the priorities of the Sanctuary in accord with the original purchase of the property and the Conservation Easement held by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The plan should be documented, reviewed and revised by multiple experts before being finalized. Responsibility for drafting a new plan and overseeing its review and revision should be assigned to a subcommittee of the BNRC headed by a chairperson. That chairperson would have the authority to implement the plan, monitor progress, and provide scheduled updates to the BNRC and City Council. Annual reviews of the Sanctuary plan implementation should be conducted by an independent organization such as the National Wildlife Federation to assess the success of the plan on a continuing basis and the chairperson assigned to the tasks of developing and implementing the plan should be accountable for its success.

I hope the leaders of our City recognize the urgency of the situation and the need for action to restore the monarch habitat in the Monarch Sanctuary.

Respectfully yours, Dominick Sinicropi