A Question Six Years in the Making: To List or Not to List the Monarch Butterfly

December 17, 2020

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has been recently fluttering into the conservation world. After six years of deliberation and assessment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced on December 15, 2020, that listing this important pollinator as a threatened or endangered species is a “warranted but precluded” action. This decision means that although data has found declining monarch populations range-wide, USFWS is not presently moving forward on listing this species due to other higher priority species listings. USFWS will continue to monitor monarch populations. If current conservation efforts do not sufficiently curb population decline in future years, USFWS expects the monarch butterfly will be added as a federally-listed, threatened, or endangered species in 2024.

Monarch in EnviroScience Corporate Responsibility Committee Pollinator Garden, Stow, OH
Monarch in EnviroScience Corporate Responsibility Committee Pollinator Garden, Stow, OH

Listing the monarch would be a highly impactful decision not only for pollinator enthusiasts but could also have future implications for the agricultural industry, transportation departments, utility companies, and construction projects alike. The monarch is a habitat generalist, using any open fields, roadways, and right-of-ways with milkweed (Asclepias sp.), asters (Asteraceae spp.), and other nectar plants during the summer months. As such, important habitat for this species is common across the U.S., and such habitat could be subject to management restrictions should the monarch become listed. A federal listing would protect the monarch and its habitat under the Endangered Species Act. It would likely require future development, pesticide use, mowing, and other habitat management actions to be approved and conducted following USFWS regulations.

Although the monarch butterfly will not be listed in 2020, your project could benefit from a pollinator assessment survey and habitat management plan. EnviroScience pollinator specialists can assist your project-specific needs and provide habitat management recommendations to improve monarch butterfly and pollinator habitat on your property. Implementing habitat improvement projects across the monarch butterfly’s range will not only benefit the species but may also prevent future federal listing and management restrictions. For specific questions about how this decision could affect you or your projects, or to schedule a pollinator habitat assessment, please contact Laura Sayre at

For more information about this important conservation decision, check out the USFWS and the Xerces Society’s websites listed below. 
USFWS Save the Monarch

Xerces Society’s Much Needed Federal Protection for America’s Beloved Monarch