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Listing Monarch Butterflies Under the Endangered Species Act is “Warranted but Precluded”

Dec 15, 2020


  • Important Monarch News

This morning, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) concluded that listing the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is “warranted but precluded”. You can read the full press release here.

The rule that listing monarch butterflies is “warranted but precluded” means that while monarch butterflies would benefit from protections granted under the ESA, there are currently higher priority listing actions that take precedence. With this announcement, monarch butterflies become a candidate species. While candidate species do not have legal protections under the Endangered Species Act, candidate species status highlights the need for continued monitoring, voluntary conservation, and support of the monarch population. To support candidate conservation efforts, the USFWS works with partners to improve habitat and address threats to the population, while also continuing to review the status of the species. The monarch will remain a candidate species until they are listed under the ESA, or until the population recovers and special protections are no longer needed. The status of candidate species is re-evaluated annually. In the case of the monarch butterfly, the USFWS states that they plan to propose the monarch for listing in fiscal year 2024 if listing is still warranted (as prioritized by the National Listing Workplan).  

At the Monarch Joint Venture, we see this decision as a loud call to action and an opportunity to scale up voluntary conservation efforts. The determination that listing the monarch butterfly is “warranted but precluded” is the result of an in depth Species Status Assessment (SSA). The monarch butterfly SSA describes how monarchs are becoming more vulnerable to catastrophic events. Specifically, on the Save the Monarch webpage, the USFWS states: 

“In its current condition, the probability that the eastern North American migratory population will reach the point that extinction is inevitable is less than 10 percent over the next 10 years. The western North American migratory population has a much higher probability (60% to 68%) of reaching that point due to current threats over the next 10 years. We found the probability climbs when future conditions are projected over 30 years, varying from 24% to 46% for the eastern population and up to 92% to 95% for the western population.”

This scientific review of the population status clearly demonstrates that monarchs need our urgent support. Voluntary, proactive conservation is necessary, and this work goes beyond monarchs; by conserving monarchs, we benefit grassland habitats and countless organisms. This supports the delicate balance of biodiversity and helps mitigate the decline of many species, before they need ESA protections. 

This is a pivotal opportunity for conservation efforts to continue and to gain momentum. We need you (yes, you!) to get involved in collaborative and continent-wide efforts that support vibrant monarch populations and thriving ecosystems for future generations. Below are just a few of the many opportunities for engagement from across North America. Which one will you choose?

  1. If you are a US landowner, consider entering or joining a voluntary Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA). Under a CCAA, the landowner agrees to certain conservation practices and is assured that they would not be held to any additional regulations that might be announced in a future listing. Learn more about the Energy and Transportation CCAA that already exists to support monarch conservation efforts. 
  2. Create pollinator habitat by planting native milkweed and nectar plants. If you don’t have a backyard, consider plating monarch and pollinator-friendly flowers in a planter box or talk to the organizers of a local park or community garden.
  3. Get involved with monarch community science in your area and help researchers better understand monarch populations and habitat
  4. Track your conservation efforts using the Monarch Conservation Database or the HabiTally app. Information entered here helps track where conservation efforts, actions, and plans are occurring and may be used to update the monarch butterfly SSA. 
  5. Spread awareness about monarch declines and conservation opportunities.
  6. Support organizations working to protect pollinators.

For more information about this recent ESA listing decision, check out MJV's FAQs, read Questions and Answers: 12-month finding on a petition to list the monarch butterfly from the USFWS, watch for more updates on the USFWS monarch butterfly page, or email additional questions to  

The Monarch Joint Venture is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Cover photo by Wendy Caldwell.