LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas expert on monarch butterflies said he is leery of a request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the butterfly be considered for inclusion on the Endangered Species list.
The federal agency was presented with a petition in August from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society in Arizona and monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower asking that the monarch be listed because of its population has declined by more than 90 percent in less than 20 years.
Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist and founder of Monarch Watch, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the butterfly, said he’s concerned about the public reaction if the agency begins telling property owners that they need to conserve certain vegetation to provide critical habitat for the butterflies, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
“Nobody wants the government to tell them what to do with their property,” Taylor said. “The real challenge is to get the message out and get the public involved. This really is the way to go.”
Taylor noted an ongoing controversy over the lesser prairie chicken, which began in March when the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bird as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Kansas and other states filed lawsuits before the listing was official. Kansas lawmakers filed a bill to prevent the federal government from regulating lesser prairie chickens in the state and Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas proposed cutting the Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget by 25 percent.
Taylor said a large grassroots effort with public participation is needed to save the butterfly from a decline that some scientists have blamed on the loss of habitat and milkweed caused, in part, by farmers planting more genetically engineered crops and the increased use of herbicides. The butterflies also are threatened by climate change, increased droughts, super storms and suburban sprawl, according to scientists.
When the government said it would conduct a status review, Vanessa Kauffman, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman, said the petition “presents substantial information indicating that listing (the butterfly) may be warranted.”
Taylor founded Monarch Watch in 1992 to educate the public and to research the butterflies. He said more than 9,000 way stations have been built since then along the monarchs’ route to Mexico. The Monarch Watch also started a campaign called “Bring Back The Monarchs,” which encourages the public to plant milkweed in home gardens, schoolyards, parks and commercial landscaping.
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