Collaborating to Save the Monarch Migration

Monarch butterfly. Photo by Marya Fowler
The migration of monarch butterflies is one of the natural world’s most epic journeys. The eastern population of monarchs flies up to 3,000 miles from their summer homes in America’s backyards and grasslands to wintering grounds in Mexico’s mountain forests.

As recently as 1996, the monarch population wintering in Mexico was more than 1 billion, turning forests into seas of orange and black. In 2014, the wintering population numbered only about 56 million, and gathered on fewer than three acres of forest-a decrease of more than 90 percent. This decline threatens to deprive future generations of the wonder and beauty of the monarch – and is an ominous sign of the worsening health of ecosystems.

For monarch conservation efforts to succeed there will need to be cooperative efforts to protect, restore, and create monarch habitat all along the monarch migration path. With the goal of collaboration in mind, the National Wildlife Federation created the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, a tool to get local governments involved in monarch recovery, and to engage urban communities in conservation efforts.

Since the announcement of the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge last September, 71 communities have signed on to create monarch habitat in their communities. The 71 communities that signed the pledge committed to take at least three actions in favor of monarch recovery. These actions range from issuing a proclamation to help raise awareness to reducing the use of pesticides and insecticides.

Fayetteville Monarch Network First Meeting, Photo by Grace Barnett
Fayetteville Monarch Network First Meeting, Photo by Grace Barnett
Logo developed for the city-wide monarch recovery efforts, Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio
The largest city to sign the pledge so far, San Antonio, TX, garnered support from the County Commissioner’s Court, as well as surrounding communities to reach their goal of Monarch Champion status. To be Monarch Champions, a city must take on all of the actions associated with the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge (25 in California, 24 in every other state). San Antonio is well on its way to achieving this goal.

Perhaps most important to assuring the sustainability of monarch recovery efforts, one of the actions calls for convening meetings of gardening leaders in the community to discuss partnerships to support monarch butterfly conservation. The National Wildlife Federation facilitated some of these meetings in Fort Worth, Austin, Oklahoma City, and Fayetteville, AR.

These meetings have brought passionate community leaders together to identify opportunities for collaboration, and long-term goals for their respective communities. With the continued support of these budding Monarch Networks, every community in the central flyway can become a Monarch Champion.

Oklahoma City Monarch Network Meeting Breakout Group Discussion, Photo by Grace Barnett
Oklahoma City Monarch Network Meeting Breakout Group Discussion, Photo by Grace Barnett
The National Wildlife Federation is excited by the number of communities that have already signed the pledge, but there is still a lot of ground to cover if we are going to restore habitat along the monarch flyway.

Check the Mayor’s Monarch signatures list to see if your community leaders haven taken the pledge. If you would like to approach your local government about signing the pledge, visit the Mayors’ Monarch resource page or contact Rebeca Quiñonez-Piñón at