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Endangered Species Entomology Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Is the Monarch Butterfly Endangered?

Yes, the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has been determined to be a “candidate to be listed as Endangered” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Species Status Assessment (SSA) Framework. The SSA is an analytical approach developed by the USFWS to deliver foundational science for informing all Endangered Species Act (ESA) decisions.

The SSA framework is structured in a way to support the key decisions that must be made under the ESA. This includes whether a species is considered threatened or endangered, whether critical habitat can and should be designated, how to craft recovery plans, and how to assess project impacts to a species.

The SSA is based on the best available scientific and commercial data, and it characterizes the species’ needs, conditions, and threats in terms of its viability, which is its ability to sustain populations in the wild over time.

The SSA framework uses an individual species’ life-history traits, ecological roles, and distribution factors to assess its current and future viability. The framework is divided into multiple steps:

  1. Species’ Needs: Identification of the biological needs of the species and its ecological roles.
  2. Current Condition: Assessment of the species’ current conditions, including its demographics and health across its geographical range.
  3. Future Condition: Prediction of the species’ responses to environmental conditions and changes, including natural events and human activities.
  4. Integration and Interpretation: This step includes integrating all the information gathered from the previous steps to interpret and assess the species’ overall viability now and into the future.

In December 2020, after an extensive status assessment of the Monarch Butterfly, the USFW determined that listing the Monarch under the Endangered Species Act is warranted but “precluded at this time by higher priority listing actions”. With this finding, the monarch butterfly becomes a “candidate” for listing; they will review its status each year until they are able to begin developing a proposal to list the monarch.

Clear as mud? Then you know it is truly the USFW. Regardless, the U.S. government can not save the Monarch Butterfly alone. It will be up to us to Plant More Milkweed… one day at a time!

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