Working to save Monarch butterflies

The Monarch butterfly population in North America is experiencing a massive decline. But if governments and citizens act soon, I’m certain we can save this species from collapse or extinction.
Last week, I tabled a non-partisan motion in Parliament that could serve as a strategy to stem the decline and help restore the Monarch population to its traditional level.
You may not have noticed it yet but the Monarch population indeed is experiencing a monumental decline that looks much like a collapse.
Scientific data has found that the average population of Monarchs in a given year is about 350 million. But in 2013, the population was estimated to be just 60 million, which represents an 80 percent decline from the historical average.
I’ve noticed the decline first-hand because for several years I’ve planted milkweed in my back yard to serve as a sort of sanctuary for Monarchs, where they can rest, eat, and reproduce in the summer months after their long journey north from Mexico.
Last year was the first year that the Monarchs never came.
While they’re very visually-appealing creatures, Monarchs also play a vital role in our ecosystem as they are natural pollinators that enable our food supply to thrive.
Whenever you see a sudden population collapse among various animals, insects, and plants in an ecosystem, you can take it as a sign the entire system potentially is at risk.
It just so happens that we humans, and North Americans, live within the same ecosystem as the Monarch and we rely upon it for our agricultural food supply.
If our ecosystem withers or collapses, then it does not bode well for our effort to maintain a healthy and adequate food supply for our growing population.
So why are Monarchs near collapse? That is something I want to know but the verdict is not yet in. Recent research has found that the winter habitat of the Monarch–the Oyamel fir forest in Mexico, where the butterflies reproduce—is under extreme stress due to deforestation.
The breeding ground now covers just 1.65 acres where it was once more than 25 acres.
Other recent research has found the eradication of milkweed–the main food source of the Monarch–is taking place throughout the central U.S. and Canada by large-scale industrial agricultural operations that tend to see it as a nuisance species instead of a vital part of our ecosystem.
Both findings are plausible and if true, they mean the decline may be reversible. This is why I believe our federal government has a role to play.
The motion I tabled in Parliament reflects the recommendations that I have found in several scientific papers and journals, and other research that has been undertaken by credible voices in the non-governmental world, such as the David Suzuki Foundation.
The wording for motion M-519 is as follows:
“That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider the advisability of working with domestic and international stakeholders to address the decline in the Monarch butterfly population by increasing the collection and sharing of scientific data relating to the Monarch’s habitats, reproduction, migration, and population levels, and by developing appropriate domestic and international policy responses with the goal of protecting, expanding, and enhancing the reproductive and migratory habitats of Monarch butterflies.”
I tabled this motion for a few reasons. I wanted to put this important matter on the national agenda in the House of Commons and raise public awareness about the issue.
I’m also hopeful the Harper government will examine and analyze the motion, and possibly decide to mimic it or put a similar plan into action on their own behind the scenes.
One thing is for certain. If we want to save the Monarch butterfly from collapse or extinction, then we must act—and act quickly.