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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees that monarchs are threatened with extinction, but does not yet provide the protection that monarchs need to recover.


Expert contacts:

Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species
(971) 244-3727  |  [email protected]

Emma Pelton, Senior Conservation Biologist
(971) 533-7245  |  [email protected]

Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director
[email protected]  |  503-449-3792

PORTLAND, Ore.; Tuesday, December 15, 2020---Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that listing the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act is warranted, but precluded by other priorities. The monarch was proposed for listing in 2014 through a petition submitted by the Xerces Society and our conservation partners, including Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and the late Dr. Lincoln Brower. 

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees that monarchs are threatened with extinction” said Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species at the Xerces Society. “However, this decision does not yet provide the protection that monarchs, and especially the western population, so desperately need to recover.” 

During the spring and summer, the monarch reaches towns, cities and rural areas across the Lower 48, making it probably the country’s most widely recognized butterfly. However, the sightings are not as common as they once were. The eastern migratory population has declined by over 70% since the early 1990s, when monitoring began. Meanwhile, we may be witnessing the collapse of the western migratory population, which has declined by over 99.9% since the 1980s.

With over 95% of the data from the Xerces Society’s Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count in from volunteers this year, the western population has hit an unprecedented low, with a projected final count of less than 2,000 monarchs. This is a significant decline from the record low numbers of the last two years, where the total monarch population hovered just under 30,000 monarchs—and far below the millions of monarchs that clustered in coastal California in the 1980s. 

The monarch faces many threats including the loss of milkweed and other flowering plants across its range, degradation and loss of overwintering groves in both coastal California and Mexico, and the widespread use of pesticides in the environment. Many of these stressors are exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

While we are glad that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized that protecting monarchs under the ESA is warranted, this butterfly—and especially the western population—cannot wait for protection. The monarch butterfly should be granted protection as soon as possible. 

The Xerces Society will continue to work hand-in-hand with farmers and ranchers to find practical solutions to restore and manage pollinator habitat on working landscapes. We also work with managers of roadsides, energy infrastructure, forests and grasslands, as well as community scientists and enthusiasts, other nonprofits and researchers to magnify each individual's efforts.  




USFWS announcement:

For more information about monarch conservation, visit 

Read the original petition:


About the Xerces Society
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is a nonprofit organization that protects the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice and plays a leading role in protecting pollinators and many other invertebrates. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, plant ecology, education, pesticides, farming and conservation biology with a single passion: Protecting the life that sustains us.
To learn more, visit or follow us @xercessociety on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.