The Monarchs’ numbers have been dwindling, in part due to the loss of a nectar-producing flowers and milkweed—an important source of butterfly nourishment that has been depleted (pdf) in the American midwest by agriculture and the ubiquitous herbicide Roundup.

Because the government has access to federal “rights-of-way” such as the interstate, agencies will be able to coordinate efforts to rehabilitate prairie vegetation, educate “target audiences,” and provide spring and summer breeding habitats along the flyway. The Fish and Wildlife Service has allocated $3.2 million specifically for Monarch conservation (p.31), and will prioritize projects near the corridor.

While a highway may seem an unlikely sanctuary, the conditions along I-35 sound pretty ideal, according to the report: “They constitute large land acreage on a cumulative basis, are generally maintained in sunny areas with low vegetation height (ideal pollinator habitat), and often extend for considerable distances, thereby potentially acting as corridors for species movement and adaptation to climate change.”

If the eastern Monarchs’ road trips prove successful—and sufficiently romantic—the Pollinator Health Task Force hopes their population will increase from 56.5 million to 225 million (meaning they would occupy about 15 hectares on the chart above) by 2020.

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