In a letter to President Obama this week, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and 51 of her House colleagues have called for protection of the iconic monarch butterfly. Maine Insights,Rebecca Reineke wrote extensively about the monarch butterfly's plight last year. (please veiw the article here.)
"The early efforts by farmers, local, state and federal agencies to plant milkweed and to educate the public on the plight of the monarch are laudable, and represent important first steps at stabilizing monarch population levels. However, without a seachange in how the federal government addresses the use of herbicides, especially as applied to herbicide-resistant crops, vital monarch habitats will simply continue to disappear," they wrote. "We believe that the Endangered Species Act represents the last best chance to save this amazing species and its incredible migration."
Pingree says that the annual migration of monarchs from North America to Mexico has plummeted because of the use of herbicides on GMO crops in the United States. The herbicides have wiped out milkweed, the main food for monarchs.
"When the monarchs got to Mexico they used to cover 50 square miles. By 2013 they covered an area about the size of a football field," Pingree said. "The loss of habitat and devastation of the monarch population should be a wakeup call. If we keep applying ever increasing amounts of chemicals to farmlands, it's going to have an impact on the environment."
Professor Lincoln Brower, one of the foremost experts on monarchs, welcomed the effort by Pingree and her colleagues.
"The monarch butterfly is North America’s most beloved insect. Unfortunately, the threats currently facing this incredible butterfly are so severe that unless Endangered Species Act protection is granted, future generations of people across America may no longer be able to enjoy its spectacular migration. It is wonderful that so many of our Members ofCongress have endorsed its protection," Brower said.
"Listing the monarch as threatened is essential to their survival," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. "This is an iconic species on the verge of extinction because of our chemically intensive agricultural system. This broad Congressional support should send a strong signal to the Obama Administration."