The David Suzuki Foundation has launched a campaign calling on the federal government of Canada to take action to restore monarch butterfly populations. Over the past 20 years, approximately 90 per cent of the monarch butterflies that migrate from Mexico to Canada have disappeared. After a couple of years of modest improvement, the monarch population dropped by 27 per cent last year.
Supported by more than 8,500 Canadians who sent letters to their members of Parliament and the federal environment minister, the David Suzuki Foundation is calling for immediate funding for research and conservation efforts in Canada. In 2015, government agencies in the United States allocated more than $20 million and set a national target to restore 200,000 hectares of monarch habitat.
“The U.S. responded to the monarch butterfly crisis by investing millions and setting ambitious targets,” said Jode Roberts, senior strategist at the David Suzuki Foundation. “In Canada, almost all of the meaningful action has come from citizens and groups that have been planting milkweed and native wildflowers in support of monarchs. It’s time for the federal government to do its part.”
In December 2016, scientists from Canada’s Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recommended that monarchs be listed as an endangered species under the federal Species at Risk Act. Despite this recommendation, the federal government has yet to legally protect monarchs.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna became a passionate advocate for monarch recovery recently. Following a visit with her children to the alpine Mexican forests where monarchs overwinter, she wrote a heartfelt article calling on Canadians to act before monarchs go the way of passenger pigeons and buffalo.
“Programs can be quickly created in Canada to fund new research and conservation efforts, based on the U.S.’s remarkable progress,” said Rachel Plotkin, science projects manager at the David Suzuki Foundation. “Targets can be set for planting milkweed and other butterfly-friendly species in thousands of yards, parks, roadsides, infrastructure corridors and natural spaces.”
The goal of the foundation’s new Butterflyway Project is to provide food and shelter for butterflies and bees by establishing a network of wildflower patches through neighborhoods across Canada, starting in five cities in 2017.
The project has begun in neighbourhoods in Markham, Montreal, Richmond, Toronto, and Victoria. In each city they have recruited a team of community volunteers, called Butterflyway Rangers.
These local Rangers were trained by the David Suzuki Foundation in March and April, and have been sent back to their neighborhoods with a mission to plant networks of native wildflowers in yards, schools, streets and parks.
Once a troop of Rangers plants at least a dozen pollinator patches in their neighbourhood, they will formally be recognized by the foundation as an official Butterflyway, through signage and inclusion in our national Butterflyway Project map.
Jode Roberts, Toronto-based manager of the pollinator project with the David Suzuki Foundation, says the idea is to have a series of patches made out of what he called “bits of urban fabric.” He said even spaces on the edges of laneways, between buildings and pavement, could be used to plant wildflowers.
“What we’re hoping is that there are patches that butterflies could land on in your yard, then move to the next,” he said. “You can take any space and transform it.”
There are over 100 species of butterfly and 340 species of wild bees in Toronto alone.