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More than Monarchs: Strength in Partnerships

Dec 18, 2019


  • More than Monarchs

Article by Wendy Caldwell

When someone asks me, why monarch butterflies? Or, are you still doing the butterfly thing? My usual response is ‘there is a lot more to monarchs than you think’. Throughout our More than Monarchs series, you have learned about the many different benefits of monarch conservation. If you haven’t already been following the series, check them out here.

Now in my 13th year dedicated to monarch butterfly conservation, it is interesting to reflect on how partnerships have influenced my personal story. I grew up on a farm in west central Minnesota with an unusual (for my family) love for all insects (not just monarchs!). During my studies, I came across an opportunity to work for Dr. Karen Oberhauser at the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab, applied late, and landed my first partnership in monarch butterfly conservation. Researching and teaching about monarchs was fascinating to me, but it wasn’t until a few years into working with this amazing species that I understood the true opportunity to leverage both their beauty and decline to make a difference in the world.

With farm roots, a love for nature, and an immense drive to succeed, I embraced the opportunity to lead a national conservation partnership like the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV). Beginning in 2009 with a small group of organizations and individuals with long histories of researching and conserving monarchs, the MJV was formed to bring coordination and action to the North American Monarch Conservation Plan. Over time, more like-minded organizations helped to grow the partnership. In 2014, after the eastern population had hit a record low population size and monarchs were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act, monarch conservation began seeing an abundance of new, but also very different partnership opportunities.

Each of MJV’s partners, and many other stakeholders, come to the monarch conservation table with different approaches, audiences, strengths, and opportunities to make a difference. To quote our board chair,

“MJV, to me, is the maestro in an orchestra of wonderful instrumentalists – their many partner organizations across the United States – collectively endeavoring to do a marvelous, worthwhile thing.”
~Ann Hobbie, MJV Board Chair

It is MJV’s job to orchestrate these many talented players who all have a slightly different role to play, but who create beautiful music when they all work together. Each section has an opportunity to shine, but also to play a supporting role for the rest of the orchestra. There is a role for everyone in monarch conservation, and authentic partnerships will help us to realize a vision for “all hands on deck” to help the monarch butterfly and everything that it stands for.

We look to our partners who own and manage public and private lands to create diverse habitats that support monarchs and many other species anywhere and everywhere that they can. We look to partners with influence over lands managed across agricultural, energy, transportation, or other commercial lands, as well as public, municipal, or residential lands to engage their networks in implementing monarch-friendly practices. We engage partners whose strengths are to deliver critical education to stakeholders of all ages and backgrounds to share these messages in ways that will truly reach and inspire different audiences. We rely on researchers to continuously study the species and our efforts to protect them so that we can continue to refine our strategies and messaging over time. We rely on our political leaders to continue to bring financial and legislative support to government agencies working on conservation, and we rely on you to help them understand the importance of this issue to the American public. Working together, these players can bring harmony to monarch conservation and share talents that serve a much broader purpose.

Recognizing that many of our partners have primary business objectives that don’t include the words “monarch butterfly conservation”, partnership is key. Monarch conservation is complex, and we don’t need one entity to do it all. We need all entities to do what they can, and to do what fits best within their means to help us towards the collective goal of species conservation. Partnerships can help organizations come up to speed quickly on monarch conservation, target areas of interest where they feel their organization can best contribute, leverage tools and resources that others have developed, and more efficiently develop and deploy an action plan. In many cases, organizations can rely on partnerships to help them integrate opportunities, programs, and resources into their current models, policies, or programs, which leads to a win-win for all parties involved.

Over the past several years, monarch butterflies have brought together organizations from government, NGO, business, and academia to work together towards the common goal of monarch conservation. Finding common ground is not always easy, but the monarch butterfly has demonstrated an unprecedented ability to bring traditional and non-traditional partners together for a common cause that has much broader implications.

We put a lot of weight on the wings of monarch butterflies – help us ensure this amazing insect continues to bring people and organizations together for the conservation of the planet that we all share.

 This article was written by Wendy Caldwell, Monarch Joint Venture, for the Monarch Joint Venture Communications Working Group and NAPPC Monarch Taskforce’s More than Monarchs Series. The Monarch Joint Venture is 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. Photos by Wendy Caldwell.