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Some South Dakota farmers are unhappy with industrial ag getting conservation funds; Texas judge allows abortion in Cox case; Native tribes express concern over Nevada's clean energy projects.

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The Colorado Supreme Court weighs barring Trump from office, Georgia Republicans may be defying a federal judge with a Congressional map splitting a Black majority district and fake electors in Wisconsin finally agree Biden won there in 2020.

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Texas welcomes more visitors near Big Bend but locals worry the water won't last, those dependent on Colorado's Dolores River fear the same but have found common ground solutions, and a new film highlights historical healthcare challenges in rural Appalachia.

Monarch Butterfly Winter Count Shows Significant Improvement

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Wednesday, February 1, 2023   

This winter, volunteers counted more than 335,000 Western monarch butterflies in an annual survey, a big improvement over the last few years, but still far short of historical numbers.

Observers only counted 2,000 of the iconic black-and-orange butterflies in 2020, and then 250,000 in 2021.

Rebeca Quiñonez-Piñón, senior manager of the Climate-Resilient Habitat Program, and monarch recovery strategist with the National Wildlife Federation, said it still represents a 90% decline in numbers over the past few decades.

"In the late '80s and the early '90s, the count of monarchs was very high," Quiñonez-Piñón explained. "One of the highest numbers that was recorded was in 1997, with 1.2 million monarchs."

She said experts would need to see an average of 500,000 monarchs over a period of five years in order to consider the monarch population stable. In California, the public can visit large clusters of monarch butterflies for a few more weeks at Pismo State Beach, in Pacific Grove near Monterey, and at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz County.

This winter, 250 volunteers conducted the butterfly counts at 272 overwintering sites, coordinated by the Xerces Society. The biggest clusters of monarchs were found on private property in Santa Barbara County.

Quiñonez-Piñón said going forward, California needs to work to protect butterfly habitat and continue the fight against global warming.

"Habitat loss and fragmentation, which is completely exacerbated by climate change, and the heavy use of pesticides are the three top threats to the monarch butterfly," Quiñonez-Piñón outlined. "That's where we need to focus."

She and other experts noted people can do their part by planting butterfly-friendly gardens, filled with native nectar plants and native milkweed.

Disclosure: The National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Energy Policy, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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