The Virginia Department of Transportation is participating in a program that seeks to help provide a safer journey for winged creatures that majestically migrate across the Commonwealth. Angel Deem is the director of VDOT’s environmental division and she spoke before the Commonwealth Transportation Board on January 19.
“So I’m happy to present to the Board today an overview of what’s termed the Monarch Butterfly Candidate Conversation Agreement with Assurances,” Deem said. “That’s a long title and its shortened up to CCAA.”
CCAA is a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that works with other government agencies to conserve land for at-risk species, such as the Monarch butterfly. Deem said the goal is to conserve millions of acres of land across the nation that are currently being used by state highway agencies and land used to produce energy. Another specific goal is to plant milkweed on 2.3 million acres.
Last December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services updated the endangered species list, and the Monarch is listed as “warranted but precluded.” Deem explains.
“What they mean by precluded is that there are other priority listings ahead of this one so they are essentially going to put it on hold if you will and continue to monitor its progress,” Deem said.
Progress would be made if existing habitats aren’t threatened to be converted to some other uses. The use of pesticides and mowing of state right of way are other threats.
“Those things are impacting the available foraging and breeding habitat for the Monarch,” Deem said.
Under the CCAA, VDOT would agree to taking several conservation measures.
“We would do some specific seeding and planting and brush removal to encourage suitable habitat for the Monarch,” Deem said. “We would also participate in what’s called conservation mowing, allowing food sources to be available to develop for the Monarch as well as breeding sites.”
VDOT entered into the agreement last November and the goal in the first year will be to apply the measures to 1,567 acres. Deem said VDOT has already achieved that goal and is now making progress towards the five year goal of doubling that amount. For more information on the program, watch the entire presentation on YouTube. (view the slides)
This post was originally made in the January 22, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement.