Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Point of No Return

For those of you who were unable to attend the recent Conservation Symposium at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, here is a little recap.  The line-up was a wonderful selection of people involved in or studying conservation in one form or another. Dr Bridget Stutchbury spoke on Conservation Triage, with an interesting twist.  Let's just say, we can and should make conservation a budget priority.

Dreams of Martha - Painting by Kristina Knowski
This year's topic of extinction plays well, as it is the 100 anniversary of the death of Martha, the last known Passenger Pigeon. Other topics discussed were Mussels, a program by Dr. Thomas Watters, and Conserving Plants by Dr Valerie Pence.

Chad Pregracke shows his photo of the pollution in the mighty Mississippi River.
The afternoon keynote was a real live wire!  Chad Pregracke, the founder of of Living Lands & Waters spoke on the efforts to clean up America's Rivers, from the bottom up. As CCN's Hero of the Year for 2013, there is some pretty awesome footage of this young man and his organizations efforts.  Do yourself a favor- and go HERE to see the CNN story.  It makes you realize one person can make a difference!  We can each be a force for positive change.  It was an honor to meet Chad!

Greg Lipps, one of Ohio's leading herpetologists, spoke on the effort to captive rear and re-introduce Hellbenders in Ohio's waters. Tim Krynack gave an update on the bats imperiled by White-nosed Syndrome, and Harvey Webster told the compelling story Of Mast, Men, and Memory, about the Passenger Pigeon and the lessons we should learn from its extinction.

It was my good fortune to play a role in the program as well:

My program featured the latest information on our Midwest Monarchs, and their flight for life. Generally, migration is a behavior that benefits a species, but now migration is putting our Monarchs in harm's way.  Our "migration Monarchs" are counted each year during their diapause- or rest period- in the central highlands of Mexico.  This well documented data shows a declining trend for the last 20 years.

Generally, the data is reported in hectares but World Wildlife Fund has converted that to acres and reports the population that inhabited nearly 10 acres in 2010 was a down to 1.6 acres in 2013.  In 2014 the surviving population occupied less than 1 acre. 

In a mere four years, we have lost 90% of our Midwest Monarchs.

There is currently a movement to get Monarchs listed as a "Threatened" species.  Because the two populations of Monarch on the coasts (both have very limited migrations) are doing fairly well, the species is not endangered.  It is the Midwestern Migration Phenomenon which is endangered.

We are certainly on the brink of having Monarchs extirpated from Ohio.

There are many factors at play here.  A loss of milkweed (Monarch's host plant) and a rise in the use of herbicides, pesticides and even fungicides are being implicated.  Add in climate change, which has dumped snow on wintering populations, and decimated the spring migration start-up in the drought impacted Texas.  Hopefully, the Monarch will rebound some this year, but only time will tell.

Even if their numbers increase this winter, it is time to look toward serious Monarch conservation. They should be considered the "Bald Eagles of insect conservation".  That which improves the chances for Monarchs would also benefit other insects, especially other pollinators.

So please, plant milkweed, but only if you discontinue the use of chemicals in your yard! Better yet, let's start asking our great State of Ohio to champion the cause of the Monarchs and actively manage milkweeds in Wildlife Areas, State Parks and Forests.

It would be a terrible loss to no longer have Monarchs to be tagged and raised in school programs. They are the best introduction to natural science and basic entomology!

It is far better to start conservation efforts now than to react after they are extirpated.  Please help us help the Monarchs.

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