Fish and Wildlife pushes back deadline for monarch decision

IFB part of ag coalition already working on a 20-year plan to support monarchs.

By Kay Shipman

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently extended until Dec. 15, 2020, a decision whether monarch butterflies are a threatened or endangered species. The original deadline was June 30.

More time “provides the Service with additional opportunity to evaluate the monarch’s status to determine whether listing the species is warranted,” the federal agency stated.

“Fish and Wildlife is taking time to check the science and documentation of any conservation actions, so when a decision is made, it is legally defensible,” said Lyndsey Ramsey, Illinois Farm Bureau associate director of natural and environmental resources. “The current Endangered Species Act (ESA) works mostly through litigation, which is unfortunate, and something we know this administration is working to fix through rules that are to be issued this summer. We support their efforts.

“We, in Illinois, have been learning about ESA and how it works. This is an interesting development dealing with a court decision and negotiations. We hope Fish and Wildlife is taking care to make the best decision.”

Several years ago, Fish and Wildlife was sued by environmentalists and agreed to determine whether monarchs should be put on the ESA list. Before making the decision, the federal agency agreed to consider a regional monarch flyway plan for states throughout the Midwest and down to Texas. That multistate plan was submitted last June.

Illinois is also developing a state plan in case monarchs are put on the federal list. On Earth Day, a coalition of agricultural entities, including IFB, released a 20-year ag plan to help monarchs as part of the Illinois Monarch Project.

Related: Visit this link for more on what the Illinois Monarch Project includes.

Ramsey noted “unprecedented action” for monarch conservation is happening on local, state and national levels.

As for farmers’ involvement, Ramsey said Farm Bureaus across the nation “are having pointed conversations with Fish and Wildlife” about the potential impact of monarch habitat on agricultural land and the agency’s need to work with farmers and provide them with the same legal protections provided to utility companies with habitat.

“Farmers (with habitat) need to feel confident that they won’t get tangled in ESA later on,” she added.

IFB also is coordinating farmer meetings this summer with county Farm Bureaus, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife to discuss habitat on farms and the ESA.

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