The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced a first round of grants totaling $3.3 million from its recently launched Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund (MBCF). The 22 grants, which will be matched by more than $6.7 million in grantee contributions, will support the restoration of up to 33,000 acres of habitat in areas identified by experts as key to monarch recovery.

"NFWF and our partners acted very quickly to launch this new competitive grant program, and we were delighted to have drawn such a large number of excellent proposals," said Lila Helms, NFWF's executive vice president of external affairs. "The grants we announce today will fund on-the-ground projects that will quickly contribute to a healthier, more sustainable monarch population."

Monarch butterflies are found throughout most of the United States, and a majority of the population migrates up to 3,000 miles to overwinter in Mexico. Over the past 20 years, the North American monarch population has plunged from 1 billion to fewer than 60 million, due to many factors, including loss of critical habitat. These beautiful, black-and-orange insects depend not only on nectar-producing plants throughout their range, but also milkweed — the primary food source for monarch caterpillars.

NFWF established the monarch fund in early 2015 to protect, conserve and increase habitat needed by these iconic insects and other pollinators. The MBCF is designed to leverage the investments made by federal agencies with additional funding from other private and public donors, as well as matching resources from grantees.

The successful first round of grants was made possible through funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Monsanto Company, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and private funds from NFWF.

The MBCF focuses on three priority conservation needs to restore monarch butterflies to a more robust and healthy population:

    Habitat restoration to plant native milkweed for caterpillars and nectar plants for adults in both large, contiguous areas as well as in smaller patches, especially in edge habitat along the butterfly's migration route
    Organizational coordination and capacity building to facilitate effective and efficient monarch conservation efforts at the state and regional levels
    Native seed production and distribution to increase production and availability of seeds and plants essential to habitat restoration

Helms was joined today by: Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service; Jason Weller, Chief, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Jolie Pollet, Acting Assistant Director, Resources and Planning, BLM; and Dr. Phillip Miller, Vice President, Global Government & Regulatory Affairs, Monsanto Company.
"These important investments by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its partners also support the long-term objectives of the Service's Monarch Conservation Strategy," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "Together, we can ensure the monarch continues to be a familiar sight across the American landscape."

"We are committed to helping monarch butterflies rebound and value this opportunity to partner with others to improve critical habitat," said Brett Begemann, president and chief operating officer of Monsanto. "We believe that commitment to environmental sustainability and land productivity are compatible objectives. To feed a growing population, we need to use all of the management practices available to increase agricultural productivity and make more land available for monarchs, bees, birds and other wildlife."

"The U.S. Forest Service is excited to be a partner in restoring habitats for the monarch, an important pollinator with a key role in the American ecosystem," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "We look forward to assisting in building a more secure future for these elegant and valuable butterflies."

"NRCS works with America's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to make a variety of voluntary conservation improvements to their land, many of which benefit pollinators like monarch butterflies," NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. "More than three dozen NRCS conservation practices benefit pollinators, whether it's planting milkweed or high-nectar plants in field borders, conservation buffers and pastures. Private lands are playing a crucial role in monarch's recovery, and we will continue to support those efforts with assistance from the Farm Bill."

"The lands managed by the BLM serve as a unifying and vital link for the health of many species, including the Western Monarch in the Great Basin and California," BLM Director Neil Kornze said. "This is why partnerships, like this one, that address the overall health of Western landscapes are so important."

For additional details about the grants announced today, go here.

To learn more about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's work on monarchs, visit nfwf.org/monarch.