The deal is largely unprecedented and, quite frankly…pretty weird, but in a good way!
It involves an agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and over 45 public and private companies.
The agreement allows the participating landholders to dedicate a percentage of their lands to monarch butterfly conservation in exchange for some regulatory flexibility on the rest of their lands.
This doesn’t mean they can completely destroy the environment on 80% of their land, then plant a few bushes and call it a day.
Instead, it basically means that if the participants dedicate part of their land to monarch conservation, their activities won’t be as heavily restricted when the monarchs inevitably get approved for the endangered species list; which is due to happen in December.
This unique deal is a way to incentivize an otherwise voluntary action by private landowners; dedicating part of their lands to conservation.
“Some companies wanted to wait to see how the [endandered species] listing would play out,” Iris Caldwell, a program manager at the Energy Resources Center at UIC, told Mongabay. “But if you are following what’s happening with the butterflies you know we really can’t wait. We need to be creating habitat on a variety of different landscapes, as much as we can.”
Monarch butterfly populations have declined by more than 80% over the past decade.
These butterflies are important to our planet not only because of their beauty; pollinators (like the monarch) play a vital roll in our food system and ecosystem.
This agreement will designate millions of acres of land across the United States to protect, study, and save the keystone species.