In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Kris Gade, Ph.D. – a roadside resource specialist with the Arizona Department of Transportation – discusses Monarch butterfly conservation efforts; a butterfly species that’s experienced a dramatic dip in population over the past few decades.

[Above photo via Wikimedia Commons]

Once ubiquitous in North America and known by its striking orange and black wings. Monarch butterflies play a vital role as pollinators – helping support healthy plant ecosystems from the Great Smoky Mountains to Zion National Park.

[Editor’s note: In December 2020, the Transportation Research Board published a resource guide for state departments of transportation in their efforts to preserve and expand monarch butterfly habitat and support migration support efforts.]

As the eastern members of this iconic butterfly species prepare for their annual migration to Mexico, Gade explains on the podcast the ways state DOTs are helping support the Monarch’s survival and growth as a species.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

In March 2020, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials sent a two-page letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior supporting “expedited approval” of the voluntary national Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances or CCAA to further encourage the creation of pollinator habitats in highway rights-of-way – especially where the Monarch butterfly is concerned.

“The regulatory protections provided by this CCAA allow transportation agencies to continue vegetation management practices with less concern that these actions will lead to an increase in the costs of regulatory compliance if the monarch is listed under the Endangered Species Act,” AASHTO said in its letter. “We see the CCAA as advancing … guidance developed by the Federal Highway Administration on practices to support pollinator habitat,” the group added.