Indianapolis, IN – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a new conservation effort to help farmers in Indiana and nine other states provide food and habitat for monarch butterflies. This targeted effort in the Midwest and southern Great Plains by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $4 million in 2016 to help combat the decline of this iconic species.
“These beautiful and once-common butterflies are growing less familiar, and we know private landowners, especially farmers can play a crucial role in aiding their recovery,” said Jane Hardisty, NRCS state conservationist in Indiana. “Indiana’s farmers are good stewards of the land, and this effort helps them make improvements that benefit all natural resources and wildlife, including pollinators such as the monarch.”
The orange-and-black butterflies are known for their annual, multi-generational migration from central Mexico to as far north as Canada. Monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants like milkweed – the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars.
Indiana is at the heart of the monarch migration so NRCS will focus on integrating milkweed and high-nectar plants along field borders, in buffers along waterways or around wetlands, in pastures and other suitable locations in the state.
NRCS will provide technical and financial assistance to help producers and conservation partners make pollinator and butterfly-friendly improvements to farms using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and remaining funds from the former Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Cost share funds are also available through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to establish monarch habitat.
Examples of conservation improvements include buffer habitats, cover crops and better pasture management practices which help reduce erosion, increase soil health, inhibit the expansion of invasive species and provide food and habitat for insects and wildlife.
This effort by NRCS contributes to a multi-agency, international strategy to reverse the monarch’s population decline in North America, estimated to have decreased from one billion butterflies in 1995 down to about 34 million today. The National Strategy to Protect Pollinators and Their Habitat has a goal of increasing the eastern population of monarchs back up to 225 million by 2020.
To learn more about the Monarch butterfly, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/monarchs.
For more information about NRCS and other technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs,