Saving the monarch: A conservation movement on America's farms

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everyone has a monarch story whether

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it's when you had caterpillars and

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crystallises - growing up and watching

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hundreds of monarchs in your window as a

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kid and as we farm there's nothing more

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beautiful than when you're out in the

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field working and you're seeing all

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these butterflies following you when

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you're able to observe that we grow

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commodity crops and commodity pork this

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is our life's work it's a business but

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it's also our lifestyle

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farmers are naturally conservationists

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we are the stewards of the land this is

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an opportunity but it's also

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responsibility to leave the ground we

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farm the animals we produce in better

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shape than how we found them mark is so

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widely recognized with obviously iconic

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in this country and the Midwest in

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particular has historically been very

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important for monarch breeding

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the corn belt that's mostly a landscape

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of corn and soybeans now and so it's a

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huge patch and landscape it's used for

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agriculture

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so it's mostly in the last 20 to 25

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years use of herbicide we've had this

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big decline in milkweeds and scientists

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think that's probably a pretty

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significant cause of mana decline my

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entire farming career up until about two

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years ago was getting rid of this weed

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when I was younger and we hand weeded

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our soybeans and we would pull those

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darn things and get the milk on our

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hands and we were too good at eliminated

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it and now we've maybe gone too far

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there's collateral damage

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there is an urgency we need one point

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four billion milkweed plants to restore

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the monarch to where they once were

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Minnesota sits in a unique situation

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because we are part of that migration

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pattern we can still have milkweed and

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still have the productivity that we need

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in our AG lands

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in order to recover the monarch we need

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to work with farmers and ranchers across

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the country to restore habitats on edges

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buffer zone larger land areas that would

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be compatible with the farming and

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ranching operations and so the concept

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of the monarch habitat exchange is using

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an approach like a marketplace and

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farmers and ranchers are familiar with

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working in a market-based environment

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sell a crop so we want to empower them

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to create a monarch habitat crop that

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they can market through the exchange

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an important part of developing the

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monarch habitat exchange is the

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accountability in other words how do we

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measure the commodity we're developing

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what we call a have that quantification

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tool and what that tool does is it

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measures the actual quality of habitat

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the hqt is a really important tool for

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allowing us to assess the value a parcel

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of land and monarch productions our goal

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is to actually be able to quantify how

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many monarchs a given piece of land will

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produce we can't reach our conservation

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goals with monarch unless we engage the

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farming community and EDF has existing

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partnerships with farmers and a model it

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works for providing incentives to create

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habitat for species it's very much a

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collaborative effort EDF provides an

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opportunity for us to be data-driven

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science-based we wiped out this plant in

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some places that we needed to keep it

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now we know and now we need to rebuild

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it throughout the system in the places

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that it betters the species so that we

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can get the species back to where it

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needs to be our overall goal is to

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restore two million acres within the

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next ten years so as to make a

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significant contribution to the recovery

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of the monarch we all need to contribute

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in some fashion whether that's allowing

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a roadside or some marginal areas to be

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restored to habitat or providing some

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funds the knowledge and expertise those

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different resources and tools and

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strategies it's a contribution to

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restoring a national icon coming

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together to do something beneficial for

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our species we all love

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[Music]

In just two decades, the monarch butterfly population has plummeted by 90 percent, primarily due to the loss of habitat. A multi-stakeholder effort is now underway to build a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange, a new program that will enable efficient and effective restoration and conservation of the habitat  monarchs need for breeding and feeding. Developing this program requires strong partnerships across the country, so EDF experts are partnering with key groups including Monarch Joint Venture and the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.

The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is currently in the pilot stage of development. Pilot projects are underway on five Texas ranches that collectively will enhance almost 3,500 acres of habitat. In northern Missouri, a total of 1,000 acres of habitat restoration is currently planned or underway on three farms. In Iowa, EDF has submitted a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant application in collaboration with Iowa State University and Iowa Department of Natural Resources. If funded, this CIG would facilitate the implementation of projects on Iowa farms beginning in fall 2017.

Watch the video to learn more about the program and to meet the Duncansons – a Minnesota farming family that has turned milkweed from a liability into an opportunity. “This is an opportunity, but it’s also a responsibility—to leave the land, the animals we produce, in better shape than how we found them.”