By Liz Berg,
Congressional and Legislative Affairs Fellow,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
As a Congressional and Legislative Affairs Fellow with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), I act as a liaison between the FWS and Congress. One of the issue areas I work on is the conservation of pollinators, including the monarch butterfly. I have responded to inquiries from staff who work for Senators, House Representatives, and Congressional committees, including the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and House Natural Resources Committees. I have also prepared outreach materials, and helped coordinate a Congressional briefing – all concerning the monarch butterfly.
FWS work on monarch conservation
Several organizations petitioned the FWS to study monarch butterfly population status and make a decision whether to list them under the Endangered Species Act. The monarch butterfly will remain a candidate species for listing until a decision is made. In the meantime, the FWS is working with diverse partners on monarch butterfly conservation, including a new partnership with non-federal landowners of energy and transportation rights-of-way, which includes land used for power lines and highways.
In April, the FWS announced the opening of a public comment period on the proposed Monarch Butterfly Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA). This agreement allows non-federal landowners of energy and transportation rights-of-way with assurances when they voluntarily provide habitat for the monarch butterfly. For example, the FWS would provide assurances through a permit authorizing incidental take of monarch butterfly that is covered under the CCAA. Take includes harming, harassing or killing a listed species and is prohibited under the Endangered Species Act unless a permit is issued. If the FWS moves forward with the proposed Monarch Butterfly CCAA, it would be one of the largest voluntary conservation efforts of its kind, translating to over 2.5 million acres of monarch habitat. More than 30 partners have already committed to the agreement, which would translate to over 2.5 million acres of monarch habitat.
My work on monarchs as a liaison between FWS and Congress
My office aims to keep Congress informed on all FWS actions. I helped identify which Member and committee staff to provide advance notice of the proposed Monarch Butterfly CCAA announcement and then worked with our Public Affairs team to prepare a communications strategy. All of the work had to be done on a short deadline, which may sound stressful, but I found to be exciting. I drafted outreach emails summarizing the Monarch Butterfly CCAA that I sent to over 150 Member and committee staff. I also called several key Members who have special interest in monarch butterfly conservation.
Pollinator Protection Caucus Briefing on the proposed Monarch Butterfly CCAA. Left: State Governor Proclamations of Pollinator Week, handouts, and monarch butterfly cookies. Right: Panelists from left to right; Charles Wooley (FWS Midwest Regional Director), Iris Caldwell (University of Chicago, IL), Joe Hazewinkel (Wolverine Power Cooperative), Kelly Rourke (Pollinator Partnership), and Katasha Cornwell (Florida Department of Transportation).
I also helped coordinate a Congressional briefing on the proposed Monarch Butterfly CCAA. The Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus, a group of bi-partisan Members who support pollinators, hosts a briefing every year during Pollinator Week. The co-chairs of the caucus, Representatives Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), invited the FWS to speak at the briefing. I worked with FWS leadership to determine who would be a good fit for the briefing, coordinated talking points with the other speakers, and invited key Member and committee staff to the briefing. Over 50 people attended the briefing. Staff were encouraged to sift through over 40 state Governor Proclamations of Pollinator Week and bring them back to their respective Members. Additionally, the Environmental Defense Fund set up a virtual reality simulation of the monarch butterfly migration. Our efforts were not in vain, I was encouraged to witness the community of people who work on Capitol Hill interested in monarch butterfly conservation and engaged in a discussion about pollinators.
Next steps for monarch butterflies
The FWS will make a decision whether to list the monarch butterfly by December 15th, 2020. Hopefully, efforts such as the Monarch Butterfly CCAA will preclude the need to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The public comment period for the Monarch Butterfly CCAA ended in June. Now, the FWS will review comments and determine whether or not to move forward with the agreement. I look forward to following the monarch butterfly story and continuing to work with Congress on pollinator issues this year.
For more information on the Monarch Candidate Conservation Agreement, please visit: https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html
For more information on the beautiful monarch butterfly art in the cover photo, please visit: https://mallofamerica.com/kaleidoscope