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Study: Americans willing to pay up to $6.5 billion to save the monarch butterfly

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    Digital writers

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 4:59 PM -

    A new study suggests that Americans are willing to pay up to $6.5 billion out of pocket to help save the monarch butterfly.

    Researchers say the data has revealed the public's interest in the struggling species, which has been in steady decline for years.

    In March of this year, it was reported that the number of monarch butterflies that migrated to Mexico in the winter of 2012 fell by 59 percent, the lowest level in 20 years.

    According to experts, the population drop now fits into a long-term statistical trend that can not be attributed to "one-off" seasonal events, like extreme drought.

    "While many factors may be affecting monarch numbers, breeding, migrating, and overwintering habitat loss are probably the main culprits," said Karen Oberhauser, a monarch biologist at the University of Minnesota and a co-author of the study in a statement.

    "In the U.S., the growing use of genetically-modified, herbicide-tolerant crops, such as corn and soybeans, has resulted in severe milkweed declines and thus loss of breeding habitat."

    Conservationists say that even if a fraction of the proposed $6.5 billion trickles in, it could have a profound impact on the longevity of the monarch butterfly. It's hoped that public interest in the monarchs could inspire a consumer market for butterfly-friendly plants.

    "This is the first nation-wide, published, economic valuation survey of the general public for an insect. The study indicates that economic values of monarch butterflies are potentially large enough to mobilize people for conservation planting and funding habitat conservation," said study co-author John Loomis.

    You can help protect the monarch butterfly by donating to a reputable cause. 

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