Announcing our 2023 Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Grantees | Cal Parks
Published: February 23, 2023

California State Parks Foundation’s 2023 Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Grant Round invested in programs to improve monarch overwintering habitat, including the development and implementation of state park overwintering grove management plans.  

Each winter, western monarch butterflies stop to rest and refuel along California’s coast, which offers the specific habitat that suits their needs. This is a vulnerable stage in a monarch’s life cycle, so protecting their habitat with overwintering grove management plans is critical. Overwintering grove management plans outline strategies for forest and land management, pest control, environmental concerns, and public engagement. They evaluate future threats, such as sea level rise at coastal sites, and develop strategies to address these challenges. Strategies to improve monarch overwintering habitat include:  

  • Planting trees to sustain aging groves and increase windbreaks  

  • Fuel reduction to prevent wildfires in overwintering groves  

  • Planting native nectar plants to ensure an adequate food source 

  • Predator, pest, and disease control  

  • Public education, access, and engagement  

The 2023 Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Grant Round has provided $49,971.53 in funds to support overwintering grove management plans in the Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo Coast Districts. Meet our 2023 Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation grantees and get an inside look at their upcoming projects! 

Groundswell Coastal Ecology | Natural Bridges State Beach and Lighthouse Field State Beach | $24,999.33 

Project: Building Resilient Monarch Overwintering Groves in Santa Cruz State Parks 

Groundswell Coastal Ecology recently authored two plans, the Natural Bridges Monarch Overwintering Grove Management Plan, and the Lighthouse Field Monarch Overwintering Management Plan Update. The recent 2022–2023 winter storms caused widespread devastation to many California state parks, including monarch overwintering grove habitat at both Natural Bridges and Lighthouse Field State Beaches. These plans identify several actions to increase the resilience of overwintering monarch populations. These actions include assessing storm damage to the grove by quantifying and mapping downed trees, erosion areas, and damaged infrastructure; clearing dead and downed trees; developing and implementing a tree replanting plan to replace recently lost trees; and developing a watercourse maintenance and enhancement plan for the drainage that has flooded the Natural Bridges State Beach overwintering grove.  

Impact: Implementing the grove management plans at Natural Bridges and Lighthouse Field State Beaches will directly increase the resilience of their monarch overwintering groves The grant will also enable the necessary planning to carry out future projects that benefit the overwintering monarchs. 

California State Parks - San Luis Obispo Coast District | Morro Bay State Park | $24,972.20 

Project: Habitat Improvements in Monarch Overwintering Sites within Morro Bay State Park 

This project will protect, maintain, and improve two overwintering sites within Morro Bay State Park. Specifically, it will focus on planting native nectar plants, select tree planting, and fuel reduction of downed trees and debris to create a more favorable microclimate and ensure nectar resources for overwintering monarchs. Native nectar plants identified in the management plan will be collected as seeds, grown, and planted in both the core and shelter zones. Select native tree and large shrub plantings will add diversity, wind protection, and more vertical structure to the site. Fuel reduction activities will occur at times monarchs are not present at the sites and may include cutting, piling, and burning fallen trees, bark, and leaf debris. Additionally, to provide adaptive management data, state parks will mark cluster trees and other noteworthy trees in the groves to track and document monarch cluster preferences and tree health through time. 

Impact: Planting native nectar plants will ensure that monarchs have an adequate food supply. Fuel reduction will decrease the risk of wildfire in the groves and prepare the area for planting, which will create an increase of habitat resources to benefit monarch butterflies in Morro Bay State Park. Marking trees within the sites will ensure accurate monitoring over time. The lessons learned through this effort will be incorporated into management plans for other sites, furthering our management efficacy.  

Support for our 2023 Monarch Butterfly Conservation grant round was generously provided by our California State Parks Foundation members and donors. Our friends at United Airlines provided a $25,000 match to increase contributions.