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TxDOT does its bit to help save monarch butterflies

Thursday, March 11, 2021 by Tai Moses

Photo by Katie Boyer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The monarch butterfly, one of the nation’s most iconic insect species, has been in decline for years due to the widespread loss of its native habitat and decades of pesticide use. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that populations of the orange-and-black pollinator in the U.S., Canada and Mexico “have dropped by about 90 percent over the past 20 years.” Now the Texas Department of Transportation is stepping up to help save the monarch by joining the Monarch Butterfly Candidate Conservation Agreement for Energy and Transportation Lands, a historic accord that “encourages transportation and energy partners to participate in monarch conservation by providing and maintaining habitat on millions of acres of rights-of-way and associated lands,” according to the news release. Monarchs visit Texas every fall and spring as they migrate from their breeding grounds in the north to spend the winter in Mexico. To aid in the monarch’s recovery, TxDOT is “enrolling 1.238 million acres of land, consisting of 73,038 center lane miles of highways and interstates.” James Stevenson, TxDOT maintenance division director, points out that state rights-of-way “are excellent habitat for wildlife, including pollinators such as the monarch butterfly as well as bats, bees, birds, and many more. Since milkweed is a crucial host plant for monarchs, TxDOT fully supports milkweed growth on state rights-of-way. Thousands of acres of milkweed appear on rights-of-way every year due to TxDOT’s longstanding wildflower and pollinator programs.” And the butterflies aren’t the only creatures who will benefit; while the agreement was designed with monarchs in mind, the conservation measures will be beneficial to all pollinating insects.

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