The population of western monarch butterflies has significantly declined in the past two decades. Those overwintering along the California coast have fallen from an estimated 4.5 million butterflies in the 1980s to only 1,899 in 2020. The past two years have shown an encouraging population rebound, but monarchs are still threatened. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported that the monarch butterfly “warranted listing as an endangered or threatened species under the [Endangered Species] Act, but that listing was precluded by higher priority listing actions,” and in July 2022 the species was listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
This year, California State Parks Foundation will provide even more funding to ensure western monarch butterflies are protected with sustainable future planning. In 2023, California State Parks Foundation is excited to fund two organizations creating overwintering grove management plans in the Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo Coast Districts through the 2023 Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Grant Round.
Groundswell Coastal Ecology recently authored two plans, one for Natural Bridges State Beach and an update for Lighthouse Field State Beach. The recent 2022–2023 winter storms caused widespread devastation to many California state parks, including monarch overwintering grove habitat at both state beaches. These plans identify several actions to increase the resilience of overwintering monarch populations. Actions include assessing storm damage, downed trees, erosion, and damaged structures; clearing dead and downed trees; replanting trees to replace recently lost trees; and mitigating flooding in the Natural Bridges State Beach overwintering grove.
This project will protect, maintain, and improve two overwintering sites within Morro Bay State Park. Specifically, it will focus on planting native nectar plants to ensure a sufficient food supply, planting trees to add biodiversity and wind protection, and removing downed trees and debris to reduce wildfire risk and create a more favorable microclimate for overwintering monarchs. Additionally, state parks will mark trees and areas where monarchs cluster to track and document monarch cluster preferences and tree health throughout the season.
Director of Marketing and Communications at California State Parks Foundation
Director of Philanthropy at California State Parks Foundation