Listing Decision Keeps Monarch Front and Center

On December 15, 2020, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) status for the monarch butterfly reached a milestone when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the listing decision for the monarch butterfly as “warranted but precluded.”  This means that the USFWS has determined the monarch butterfly meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species, but the agency lacks the resources to take further action to list the species at this time. A proposed listing rule is scheduled for 2024, however, the upcoming change in administrations may alter that timeframe.  Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI) will continue to monitor the listing status and share updates in Field Notes.

In the interim, the USFWS’s decision makes the monarch a candidate for listing under the ESA, and the status will be reviewed yearly until it is either listed or considered to be recovered.  The USFWS also noted their commitment to ongoing efforts with partners to conserve the monarch and its habitat at the local, regional, and national levels.  “We conducted an intensive, thorough review using a rigorous, transparent science-based process and found that the monarch meets listing criteria under the Endangered Species Act.  However, before we can propose listing, we must focus resources on our higher-priority listing actions,” said USFWS Director Aurelia Skipwith.  “While this work goes on, we are committed to our ongoing efforts with partners to conserve the monarch and its habitat at the local, regional and national levels.  Our conservation goal is to improve monarch populations, and we encourage everyone to join the effort.”*

The monarch butterfly is now a candidate for listing as threatened or endangered.

Implications for Projects and CCAA Participation

The monarch butterfly’s candidate status means the species receives statutory protection under the ESA while it is under consideration for listing.  At this point, the new proposed listing date is scheduled for 2024 with the potential for an additional year while the listing is out for public comment.  This allows partners in the energy and transportation sectors to participate in the Monarch Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for potentially the next four years or more.

As discussed in our July 2020 Field Notes, collective conservation contributions of the energy and transportation sectors have the potential to preclude a listing decision; this latest announcement from the USFWS emphasizes the importance of these combined efforts.

WSSI can help you weigh the costs and benefits when considering monarch conservation efforts, for participation in the Monarch CCAA or for other conservation-focused efforts, and we can provide services at any stage, from developing conservation objectives to implementing and reporting.  WSSI will also work with third-party conservation accreditors to certify your conservation efforts and publicly showcase your commitments to investors.

WSSI Can Help You Mitigate Risk

The monarch butterfly listing scenario – and the potential implications for habitat management in the future – can pose some risk for environmental planning and right-of-way management.  WSSI can help assess how your organization can plan for and mitigate these issues, including the potential added costs and delays that new projects and ongoing operations can experience if the species is listed.

  • WSSI can help you influence the outcome in your favor by developing proactive measures that may mitigate risks.  The Monarch CCAA and its accompanying permit give assurances that no additional regulatory requirements will be imposed by the USFWS beyond the terms in the agreement.  The predictability of the CCAA means that participants will not experience new hurdles or potholes from the potential listing by the USFWS.
  • Helping a species in need can help you engage more stakeholders and investors through tangible, project-specific actions which in turn can boost corporate sustainability reporting.

WSSI can help you examine the advantages and disadvantages of enrolling some or all of your system in the Monarch CCAA.  Our environmental scientists, vegetation managers, and energy professionals can partner with you and your team to deliver a holistic solution reflecting your budget and operational constraints.  Contact Dan Williams, Roy Van Houten, or Michael Smith to discuss how a CCAA and other conservation efforts may fit into your right-of-way and land management strategies.

*from December 15 press release


  • Dan Williams

    Gainesville, VA

  • Roy Van Houten

    Gainesville, VA

  • Michael Smith

    Richmond, VA