A Call to Ac­tion

Canadian Wildlife - - FROM CWF - Rick Bates CEO, Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion

Wel­come to the March/april is­sue of Cana­dian Wildlife. It was just a cou­ple months ago, back on a dark win­try evening in Jan­uary, that I heard a fascinating in­ter­view on CBC Ra­dio. I was driv­ing home in my car when I heard a sci­en­tist at the Uni­ver­sity of Guelph de­scrib­ing his re­search on monarch but­ter­fly habi­tat, not usu­ally the first thing one’s thoughts turn to in the dead of win­ter.

But monar­chs had been front-of-mind for many this win­ter. Like many Cana­di­ans, I was alarmed to hear in De­cem­ber that the Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of En­dan­gered Wildlife in Canada, an ad­vi­sory panel of ex­perts, had made a sober­ing dec­la­ra­tion: the Cana­dian govern­ment should act im­me­di­ately to move monarch but­ter­flies to the en­dan­gered species list. Over the pre­vi­ous two decades their pop­u­la­tion had dropped pre­cip­i­tously, with num­bers declining by 90 per cent. With­out con­certed and ur­gent ac­tion, the panel ex­plained, monarch but­ter­flies would be wiped out. (As of press time, the fed­eral govern­ment has still not acted on the rec­om­men­da­tion.) It was against this de­press­ing back­drop that I lis­tened to Tyler Flock­hart on my car ra­dio.

Much of the blame for the de­cline of monar­chs has been placed on shrink­ing habi­tat and the loss of milk­weed plants. To de­ter­mine how to best con­cen­trate con­ser­va­tion ef­forts, Flock­hart and his team did a chem­i­cal anal­y­sis of but­ter­fly wings col­lected as far back as the mid-1970s to un­der­stand where they orig­i­nated. What he dis­cov­ered sur­prised him: the con­sen­sus assumption had long been that breed­ing lo­ca­tions for most monar­chs were pre­dom­i­nately in the U.S. Mid­west. In­stead, Flock­hart found that the ma­jor­ity of monar­chs were born in other ar­eas, in­clud­ing a very high num­ber in Canada. The im­pli­ca­tions were im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous: we in Canada have to do more to save these ex­tra­or­di­nary crea­tures. And we must do it soon.

I im­me­di­ately con­tacted the ed­i­tor of this mag­a­zine and asked him what the mag­a­zine could do with the story. The re­sult starts on page 26: writer Brian Banks, a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor, ex­plains the cri­sis and sum­ma­rizes Flock­hart’s im­por­tant work. He also pro­vides a prac­ti­cal side­bar de­scrib­ing what each of us can do to ad­dress the prob­lem. It turns out there is plenty, from pres­sur­ing your mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment and lo­cal cor­po­ra­tions and util­i­ties to plant milk­weed, to creating your own but­ter­fly-sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment. It is not al­ways ob­vi­ous on these large en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues what in­di­vid­u­als can do to make a dif­fer­ence, so I am glad we can of­fer con­crete ac­tion for ev­ery­one to take. I en­cour­age you to join the ef­fort to save the monarch.

To see how im­por­tant ac­tive vol­un­teers can be, check out Nick Hawkins’ ar­ti­cle and photo es­say on whale en­tan­gle­ment (page 18). Hawkins, also a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, went to the Bay of Fundy to find out about the im­por­tant and dan­ger­ous work of sav­ing en­tan­gled whales from slow and painful deaths. What he found was a group of ded­i­cated vol­un­teers (all of whom make their liv­ing from the sea) who risk limb and liveli­hood to do the right thing. It is both a har­row­ing and an in­spir­ing story.

All of us at CWF know it is up to ev­ery­one to make a dif­fer­ence, and we are grate­ful for the sup­port we re­ceive from so many Cana­di­ans each year. It is my hope that our mag­a­zine will in­spire even more Cana­di­ans to act in de­fence of our wildlife.

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