Can Cooperation Save the Monarch Butterfly?

In another (shocking) piece of good news from the Trump Administration, the Fish & Wildlife Service last week announced a major agreement for the recovery of the monarch butterfly.  The agreement will be implemented by the University of Illinois – Chicago and will involve the participation of dozens of companies in the energy and transportation sectors.

The key to the agreement is the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurance.  In return for the obligations the companies assume to preserve habitat, they get the assurance that, should FWS determine that listing of the monarch butterfly as endangered is necessary, they will not be subject to any additional requirements.

Lest the administration try to argue at some point that this agreement demonstrates that the harsh provisions of the ESA are not necessary and that species recovery can be accomplished by wholly voluntary actions by landowners, it should be obvious that the carrot of the CCAA only works because the alternative that landowners face would be the stick of the take provisions of the ESA should the monarch be listed.  The energy and infrastructure companies participating in this agreement made a simple dollars and cents decision that the costs of compliance with the CCAA are a fair trade-off to avoid the uncertainty and cost associated with compliance with an ESA listing.

Nonetheless, full credit to all the parties who made this happen, including the FWS.  (Now, let’s see if FWS takes the next step and lists the monarch under the ESA!)

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