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USFWS to create pollinator corridor for butterflies, bees

The corridor of butterfly-friendly habitat will follow the general path of I-35, which dissects the Midwest, connecting Minnesota and Mexico.

By Brooks Hays
USFWS to create pollinator corridor for butterflies, bees
The White House and USFWS want to build a highway for monarch butterflies. Photo by anuphadit/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- Pollinator populations are on in the decline in North America. Both wild and managed honey bee populations are shrinking. And each year fewer monarch butterflies are making the epic journey south at summer's end.

To help solve the problem, officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are aiming to set aside a north-south corridor of conserved habitat, a sort of superhighway for butterflies.

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If you google "butterfly highway," the results reveal a number of local state and city projects featuring butterfly-friendly roadside landscaping. The new plan proposed by FWS officials, in conjunction with the White House, takes a similar approach -- but on a larger scale.

The new butterfly highway plan will attempt to link gardens and parks with stretches of highway-adjacent habitat planted with milkweed -- the monarch's preferred food and resting spot.

Though the butterfly highway won't exactly be a road itself, the corridor of butterfly-friendly habitat will follow the general path of I-35, which runs from Minnesota south to Mexico and already naturally follows the preferred flight path of most butterflies.

"Patches of high-quality habitat that's rich in flowers and free of pesticides forming a corridor from Mexico to Canada will help monarchs to find nectaring and breeding areas as they travel," Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the advocacy group Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, explained to Public Radio International.

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Right now, the butterfly highway is only a plan, but officials hope to get working fast. Biologists and ecologists suggest the situation for monarch is "desperate." Over the last two decades, monarch migrations have shrunk 90 percent in size.

The plan is part of a number of strategies and funding initiatives spelled out by the White House on Tuesday aimed at aiding butterflies and bees, whose numbers and health have been hard hit by pesticides and habitat loss.

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