Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Monarchs in Trouble: Ontario Nature Urges Action

Message from Ontario Nature

Action Alert:

PLEASE NOTE: for up to date information regarding this Ontario Nature Action Alert, go to Ontario Nature’s website.

Canada’s most recognizable butterfly is in trouble. You now have the opportunity to speak up for monarch butterflies and urge the federal government to strengthen its draft management plan for this iconic species. While the plan certainly proposes some strong conservation measures, it is weak in terms of its overall objectives, targets and deadlines for action. We must do more for the monarch. The public consultation period on the draft plan ends on December 8, 2014.

Kens monarchphoto by Ken Allison

The monarch was listed as a species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. It has declined dramatically over the past 15 – 20 years and is threatened by many factors including loss of breeding, nectaring and overwintering habitat, and the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides. Last winter, monarchs occupied just 0.67 hectares of their overwintering habitat in Mexico, only about 10 percent of their ten-year average of 6.39 hectares (1994 – 2014).

For many years, conservation efforts focused on habitat loss in the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico. While large-scale illegal logging has now been largely addressed, small-scale logging is an ongoing concern. But, there is a growing recognition that the reduction of milkweed in the monarch’s breeding habitats in the United States and Canada is also driving monarch declines.

The draft management plan identifies broad strategies and conservation measures needed at the international, national and local levels. But to be effective it needs to be significantly strengthened in the following ways.

1. The first objective of the plan should aim to recover Canada’s monarch populations, not just to “maintain the current Canadian contribution to the overall North American monarch population” (p. iii), as stated in the draft plan. Given that this species is known to be in decline, aiming only to maintain the current population simply enshrines a low and unacceptable baseline. Instead, the objective should be to halt the decline and increase the population within ten years.

     Recommendation 1: Revise the first objective so that it reads: “to mitigate threats to the monarch butterfly and ensure that there is sufficient breeding, nectaring and staging habitat in Canada to recover Canada’s contribution to the overall North American monarch population;”

2. The strategy dealing with Conservation and Management of Breeding and Nectaring Habitat (section 6.3, Table 5) does not address the use of pesticides in agriculture. The use of glyphosate herbicide in conjunction with glyphosate-tolerant crops is a key threat to the eastern population of monarchs.

     Recommendation 2: Under the Conservation and Management of Breeding and Nectaring Habitat strategy, include measures to address the impacts of pest control products used in agriculture.

3. The timelines for action under the Conservation Measures and Implementation Schedule (Table 5) are vague and distant (2019 and beyond). There are no responsibilities or roles assigned to any parties, including federal or provincial governments. Similarly, the indicators listed under Measuring Progress (Section 7) lack baselines, concrete targets and deadlines. A plan without these important features provides a very weak framework for decisive, timely action and for measuring solid progress.

     Recommendation 3: Revise the Conservation Measures and Implementation Schedule so that it includes more precise timelines as well as clearly defined roles and responsibilities to ensure timely and effective implementation of the plan. Similarly, revise Section 7 so that it includes baselines, concrete targets and deadlines for assessing progress.

Please join Ontario Nature in requesting a more robust management plan for the monarch butterfly. Remember, the deadline for comments is December 8, 2014.

Your comments can be submitted online:

Or you can direct your comments to:

Recovery Planning
Environment Canada
15th Floor,
Place Vincent Massey
351 St. Joseph Boulevard
Gatineau, QC
K1A 0H3

Please see the sample letter below to send to Environment Canada.

“Dear Environment Canada, 

I urge you to strengthen the draft management plan for the monarch by:

1. setting a clear objective to recover populations in Canada and increase their numbers within ten years;

2. including measures to address the adverse impacts of pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture, a known threat to the species; and

3. including concrete targets, clear roles and responsibilities, and precise timelines for action and for measuring progress.

A plan without these important features provides a very weak framework for decisive, timely action and for measuring solid progress.”