PACIFIC GROVE – Nestled within the massive $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden enacted last week are two bills co-authored by Rep. Jimmy Panetta to help monarch butterflies and other pollinating insects threatened by habitat loss and the use of pesticides.
There are two bills that Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, announced in April when flanked by Pacific Grove Mayor Bill Peake and Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers, two towns where the monarchs winter along Monterey Bay.
The first is a five-year program that will provide $ 10 million in subsidies to benefit pollinators on roadsides and road rights-of-way. Called the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act, the bill was drafted by Panetta and Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley.
Eligible projects include the planting of native plants – which provide pollen and nectar for wild pollinators – as well as the costs of switching to pollinator-friendly practices, such as reduced mowing, especially during key times of the season. migration of the monarch.
Pollinating creatures – birds, bats, bees and butterflies – are important because pollinated plants provide one in three mouthfuls of food, according to the San Francisco-based Pollinator Partnership. A number of vegetable, fruit and nut crops depend on the transfer of pollen to reproduce.
Most importantly, the $ 250 million Monarch Habitat Action, Restoration and Conservation Act will be distributed to states over the next five years for the removal of invasive plants. along roads, highways, railways and other transportation routes. While not primarily focused on pollinators, the program prioritizes projects that will revegetate areas with native pollinator-friendly species when the invasive plants are uprooted.
It also provides a larger share of federal funds for bee-stimulating projects, improving the chances that motorists will see lupine or wild columbine instead of kudzu or Japanese knotweed along the roads.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, whose district includes parts of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and Republican Rep from Illinois Rodney Davis co-led the introduction of bipartisan bills in the House.
In April, when he announced the bills in Pacific Grove, Panetta said the western monarch population had fallen to just 1% of the number seen in the 1980s.
“Something is wrong,” he said. “Something is leading to the dwindling and depletion of this species. The numbers are staggering and lead to an imminent risk of extinction. “
The exact causes of the dramatic fall in population are not well understood. The loss of habitat due to deforestation in Mexico is key. Other causes could include overuse of herbicides and pesticides, fluctuating weather patterns from climate change, sprawl of development, and the conversion of American prairies to ranches and farmland.
“We don’t want to lose this important pollinator for our crops and this icon of our communities,” said Panetta.
After last year’s Thanksgiving tally in Pacific Grove found no monarch butterflies, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History said on its website that the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary tally on Friday was 12,364.