What’s the Best Way to Save the Monarch Butterfly?

The monarch butterfly is in serious trouble. In fact, by some estimates, monarch butterfly numbers have declined more than 80 percent from the species’ 20-year average.

In 2014, an environmental group decided to petition the federal government to get monarchs listed on the Endangered Species List. But the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to decide on the group’s request. So they’re suing to force a decision.

“We want to get a legally binding date—when they’ll make a decision whether or not to protect the monarch under the Endangered Species Act,” says Tierra Curry of the Center for Biological Diversity, the group bringing the lawsuit.

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But not all environmentalists agree that federal protection for the monarch is the best way to save the species. Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas, says the strategy could even be counterproductive.

“I think what we would see here is that milkweed would disappear overnight,” Taylor says. “Nobody would want to have it on his landscape, simply because this would mean regulation. People don’t want regulation.”

Taylor says the federal government doesn’t own enough land to improve monarch numbers on its own. Any plan would therefore need buy-in from private landowners. President Obama prioritized protection of monarchs in his 2015 federal pollinator strategy. The effort focuses on rebuilding habitat and planting milkweed—the only food monarch caterpillars eat.

Those who support listing monarchs on the Endangered Species List also argue a new administration in Washington could abandon Obama’s pollinator strategy. Advocates say endangered species status would ensure the butterflies are protected—regardless of politics.

Reporting by Julie Grant

 

Report Looks at Blurred Lines Between Government and Gas Industry

It’s called the “revolving door.” That’s when a former government official takes a position as a lobbyist for an industry. And in Pennsylvania, that can often mean former government regulators going to work for the natural gas industry. In fact, according to a report by StateImpact Pennsylvania, nearly 40 high-level people have switched sides in the last decade.

“I noticed between the Corbett and the Wolf administrations, a lot of the people who were perhaps sitting up next to the secretary of the department during budget hearings moved to the back of the room as a lobbyist,” says StateImpact’s Marie Cusick. “And then I’ve also noticed a lot of the people from the Rendell administration cycled back into the Wolf administration.”

For now, Cusick’s reporting has only tracked the movements of officials and lobbyists. She says next she plans to look into whether this revolving door between the public and private sectors led to decisions that were favorable to industry.

“I would like to dig into some of these resumes because looking through these businesses people are affiliated with, some of them have gotten sizable state grants,” Cusick says. “[That] doesn’t necessarily prove anything. But I think you do have to be careful when you’re a public official. You have influence over how public money is spent. I think the public deserves to have confidence that you’re acting in the public interest, and you’re not just thinking about the next job you might get.”

Reporting by Kara Holsopple