Michigan is part of a 16-state region set to make some major changes to help reverse the declining numbers of monarch butterflies.

The Michigan DNR announced a new plan from the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies called the Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy.

The plan covers a 16-state region stretching from Texas to the Upper Midwest that includes migratory and habitat areas for eastern monarchs. Some other states are also cooperating with the plan. This is the opening phase of what is expected to be a 20-year strategy.

The plan aims to improve habitats and land use in natural areas, agricultural lands, urban lands, and rights of way. State wildlife agencies and partners will be working to add milkweed plants and to ensure other appropriate species will be blooming during seasons when monarchs are present.

The plan primarily focuses on voluntary and incentive-based habitat restoration, but also includes education, outreach, research, and monitoring of monarchs.

Eastern monarchs, those found east of the Rocky Mountains, have declined by more than 80 percent over the past 20 years primarily due to habitat loss.

HOW TO HELP

It's simple. Plant milkweed.

The National Wildlife Federation explains that "monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed." Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed.

Michigan State University Extension says there are more than 100 milkweed species, but they have identified six varieties best for planting in Michigan to help monarch butterflies:

  • Common
  • Butterfly
  • Swamp
  • Whorled
  • Tall
  • Prarie

MSU also offers some tips and warnings about various milkweed species.