The Vanishing Butterfly Groves of California

January 27, 2020

Emma Pelton of the Xerces Society released a statement today about the urgent need for action to reverse the loss of critical monarch overwintering sites along the California coast.  The complete article can be found here on the Xerces website:

Ms. Pelton emphasizes the vital role that California’s overwintering sites have in the life cycle of Western monarchs:

“With the number of western monarchs overwintering in California at less than 1% of historic levels for the second year in a row, it is obvious that monarchs are vanishing from the state. What’s less obvious, but vitally important to understand, is that the forested groves that the western monarchs call home each winter are also disappearing.

The latest research suggests that the damage and loss of overwintering habitat is one of the primary drivers of the decline of western monarchs. Yet the dominant story of monarch conservation in the United States so far has focused on planting milkweed and other nectar plants; reducing pesticides; and, to a lesser extent, acknowledging the roles of climate change and disease.”

Although she does not name the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary by name, it is only one of two overwintering sites that were specifically established as a monarch refuge: “Another overwintering site in the Central Coast located within a property set aside for wildlife conservation, was recently heavily trimmed.”

The article reviews the many factors that contribute to degradation of overwintering sites.  Ms. Pelton concludes with a call for urgent action to urge the agencies and cities responsible for management of the overwintering sites to stop activities that are destroying them.

“We need more voices calling for overwintering site protection at the federal, state, and local levels. Show up to your local city council meeting when proposed development is going to destroy overwintering habitat. Find out who owns and manages properties with overwintering habitat in your area. Let them know about the important animals they are sheltering and urge them not to cut the trees. Write your assembly person and state senator. Write your utility. Write your senator. Write your representative. You can find a list of your representatives and their contact information here.

Together, we can make overwintering site protection and management a reality.”