UTSA awarded $300,000 from Texas Comptroller to study monarch butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Photo by Astrid Frisch at the El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary in Mexico

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(June 24, 2015) -- Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced funding for a $300,000 research proposal by UTSA to study the monarch butterfly. The research will address key questions about the monarch butterfly in Texas and fill important data gaps in determining its need for protection as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) considers whether to place the butterfly on the federal endangered species list.

“In Texas, the monarch butterfly migration runs from the Red River to the Mexico border. There are economic concerns if the butterfly is listed because many industries important to our state’s economy could be affected, from agriculture to land development to energy production,” Hegar said. “This crucial research will help us develop voluntary best management practices to conserve the monarch butterfly while minimizing the impact on economic activity.”

The research will evaluate the abundance, species type and distribution of milkweed — an important food source for monarchs — in Texas. It also will examine land management approaches to enhance the abundance of milkweed if necessary.

“Promoting the overall health of the monarch population and other pollinators is an increasingly important topic for our state and nation, and UTSA is proud to lead this study,” said John H. Frederick, UTSA provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This project is a prime example of how research being conducted at Texas universities can inform both policy decisions and industry practices.”

The research will support the development of voluntary best management practices by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and other program partners through a collaborative stakeholder process. Research and related outreach activities will be coordinated with many program partners, including TPWD, Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, San Antonio River Authority and the U.S. Forest Service.

TPWD is taking a leading role in the state and nation on monarch butterfly conservation efforts.

“As the official state insect, the monarch butterfly holds a very special place in the hearts of Texans, both young and old,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “Texas is situated at the center of the biannual monarch migration through North America, and its declining population should be of great concern for everyone. We at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are honored to represent our great state on the national working group, and we look forward to working with Comptroller Hegar and our interagency partners to do all that we can to ensure this iconic species will be around for future generations of Texans to enjoy.”

The 2013 Texas Legislature appropriated $5 million to the Comptroller’s office to contract with state universities for high-quality species research on species under review for listing. The monarch butterfly research is being funded by that appropriation. The recently gaveled 2015 legislative session appropriated an additional $5 million for this research.

To keep the Texas economy running in the face of existing federal Endangered Species Act regulations, the 2009 Legislature appointed the Comptroller to serve as presiding officer of the Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species. The task force is intended to assist landowners, industries and local communities in working with endangered species issues and assess their economic impact on the state.

“We look forward to working with our partners on the task force to balance species protection with protecting the Texas economy,” Hegar added.

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