March 2014 - Parks & Recreation - 56

Can Parks Help

Save the
Monarch?
A conservation crisis for this critical insect is mobilizing park
and recreation agencies across the nation
By Richard J. Dolesh

O

ne of the most beloved invertebrate species of wildlife in North America,
the monarch butterfly, could be gone in virtually the blink of an eye if
effective conservation actions are not taken immediately. The situation for
monarchs has suddenly become so dire that some scientists and conservation biologists fear for the very future of this valuable species throughout North America.
Monarch numbers are in significant
decline due to habitat loss, the disappearance of critical food plants needed for survival, the negative effects of
herbicide and insecticide use, extreme
weather events and even illegal logging of roosting trees at overwintering
sites in Mexico. The collective impact

54

Parks & Recreation

of these factors has reduced monarch
populations almost 95 percent from
historic high numbers in the hundreds
of millions during the early 1990s.
The annual seasonal migration of
monarchs from breeding locations
across much of the United States and
Canada to wintering sites in Mexico,

| M A R C H 2 0 1 4 | W W W. N R PA . O R G

California, and possibly Florida and
Central America has been a late-summer source of wonder for children
and adults for generations. People in
many areas of the continental United States were able to witness a wave
of orange and black jewels fluttering
through neighborhoods and farm
fields each fall. Children and adults
alike delighted in the flight of the
monarchs as they migrated south,
clustering for a few days in areas
with nectar-bearing plants, then disappearing until the following spring



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