The Problems with Resuscitating America's Monarch Butterflies

The sharply declining population of monarch butterflies in the Americas has long been a concern for environmentalists, with numbers falling alarmingly despite a general recognition of the problem and some very determined efforts to rescue the species. Texas approved a $300,000 grant this past week for a detailed investigation that may lead to workable solutions to the issue. Here are some hurdles on the monarch's path to recovery: 

Mistaken identity
A good number of Americans have jumped onto the bandwagon of rescuers, enthusiastically planting milkweed in gardens and fields. Well-meaning though this is, many people plant tropical varieties of milkweed rather than native ones, which discourages the monarchs from migrating. Migration keeps the population healthy, weeding out the weak and keeping infectious disorders at bay.

Economic considerations
Tagging the monarch as a threatened species has obvious benefits to the conservation effort. It does, however, have its problems, most notably in the reactions of major economic entities to the resultant prohibitions and limitations to their operations, designed to protect the monarch and its habitat. Finding the right balance between ecological and economic interests is always a tremendous challenge for environmental crusaders looking to make an impact.

Farming practices
The chief cause of the monarch's declining population is widely known to be the use of insecticides, and herbicides that kill milkweed in its habitat. Finding cost-effective and workable alternatives to these chemicals is a great challenge for environmentalists looking to change long-established farming and gardening methods.  

The only hope for the monarch is in a determined effort to revive native milkweed populations, and also zeroing in on an effective solution that both economic players and environmentalists can agree on, or this iconic species might well be doomed in the crossfire. 



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