By: Dr. Patrick Bell
You all may have just seen these beautiful monarch butterflies migrate through Oklahoma City just a few short weeks ago. Weighing less than a cracker, each monarch can fly more than 250 miles in a day. It can take as many as four generations to make the multi-thousand-mile trek to their wintering grounds in Mexico. And every year these amazing creatures float right past our homes and land in our backyard gardens. They are a part of Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, monarchs are in trouble across North America. The species has declined precipitously in just the last few decades due to loss of habitat, overuse of pesticides and climate change. We stand a real risk of losing one of our best-known and most-beloved butterflies.
Oklahoma has a key location along the monarch flyway and therefore we have a role to play in boosting monarch numbers. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation already has a plan in place for protecting migrating monarchs. Dozens of states are doing the same, planting native milkweed and other plants that monarchs rely on, helping other pollinators and grassland species at risk along the way. But while the states in the flyway are doing what they can, these efforts are limited by the lack of funding.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If we invested in saving at-risk wildlife now — before their habitats were diminished, before the numbers had dwindled — we would not have to scramble at the eleventh hour.
Right now, Congress is considering a bipartisan bill called the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act that would help monarchs and others at risk before this wildlife need the “emergency room” protections of the Endangered Species Act. The bill will send nearly $1.4 billion every year to states and tribes so they could move quickly to conserve the 12,000 species of concern identified by the states, including the monarch.
If passed, this bill would send an estimated $19 million dollars a year to Oklahoma with no new taxes! And that does not include the funding that the Oklahoma tribes could also access. If passed, this bill will be the most significant investment in wildlife conservation in a generation.
More than 150 representatives from both sides of the aisle have already signed on as co-sponsors of this commonsense, cost-effective legislation, including our own Representatives Tom Cole, Frank Lucas, and Kendra Horn.
We sincerely hope that Representative Kevin Hern and Markwayne Mullins will join our other representatives and show Oklahomans that, even in these divided times, Congress can still work together on something that will allow our children’s children to witness the breathtaking migration of the brilliantly-colored monarch butterfly.
One minute of your time can make a difference for monarchs and other wildlife in Oklahoma.
Call Rep. Hern’s office in Tulsa–(918) 935-3222–and tell the person who answers the phone that you want Representative Hern to vote to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act out of the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.