Upcoming: Endangered Species Act Listing Decision for the Monarch

December 3, 2020

AMES, Iowa – On December 15th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release the decision on whether or not the monarch butterfly becomes listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The USFWS received a petition in 2014 from several organizations requesting the monarch butterfly be protected under the ESA. During a 90-day period following submission of the petition, the USFWS determined substantial information was available to determine whether or not the monarch should be listed as a threatened or endangered species. Since then, the USFWS has evaluated the status of the monarch through a Species Status Assessment.

The purpose of the SSA is to identify the current status; threats to a species; current conservation efforts, including the proactive and voluntary efforts undertaken through the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium; and current/future needs of the species. The USFWS uses the scientific information gathered from the SSA to determine if policy standards are met for an ESA listing. The SSA for the monarch butterfly can be found here.


The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo
Image courtesy of USFWS

There are three possible listing decisions that can come from this status review

  1. Listing is warranted:  The monarch would then be proposed for listing as either endangered or threatened under the ESA. There would then be a 60-day public comment period for the USFWS to gather information before finalizing the decision. A final decision will be made 12 months following the public comment period on whether the monarch would be listed as an endangered or threatened species.
  2. Listing is not warranted:  There will be no public comment period and the process ends. For the decision to be reconsidered, interested parties would have to submit a new listing petition to the USFWS. 
  3. Listing is warranted but precluded: There is no public comment period. However, monarchs will remain a candidate species for listing and each year the USFWS will re-evaluate the listing decision. 

The status assessment should be finalized and is expected to be published to the Federal Register on or shortly after December 15th.


As we wait for the list decision for monarch butterflies, listed below are some major milestones in monarch conservation over the past 6 years:

  • 2014: A petition was issued to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider monarchs for listing under the ESA.
  • 2014: A U.S. Presidential Memorandum included provisions specifically for monarch butterflies.
  • 2015: Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium established
  • 2015: The U.S. government published a National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators that affirmed the commitment of federal agencies to monarch conservation.
  • 2016: A Monarch Butterfly Conference Report under ESA’s section 7 was released as a proactive measure to aid the NRCS, in agreement with the USFWS, in implementing certain Farm Bill conservation practices for monarch butterflies.
  • 2017: Key research milestones published through efforts of the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership to inform conservation strategies and targets.
  • 2018: Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy released
  • 2018: The Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy released
  • 2019: The Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan released
  • 2019: The Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterfly on Energy and Transportation Lands was released.