The goal of the Santa Cruz Monarch Enhancement Project is to protect and preserve the wild western monarch butterfly population. The dramatic decline in monarch  populations over the past three decades requires a concerted effort to preserve and expand habitat and resources for this iconic species. 

To address this challenge, Groundswell is teaming with community members and our partners California State Parks, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Resource District of Santa Cruz County, California Association of Resource Districts, California State Parks Foundation, and others, to enhance monarch habitat both at critical overwintering sites and at the broader landscape level.

Click here to see What you can do to help monarchs.

Overwintering Sites

Several overwintering sites in Santa Cruz County rank among the most important to the western monarch populations. These include Lighthouse Field, Natural Bridges and Davenport. In 2021-22 we led development of three overwintering site management plans, two of which are publicly available:

Natural Bridges Monarch Overwintering Plan and Appendices

Lighthouse Field Monarch Overwintering Plan Update and Appendices

We are implementing the conservation actions identified in these plan to keep wild migratory monarchs a part of Santa Cruz wildlife.

Landscape Level

Pollinator Corridors on the North Coast

Monarchs require nectar from flowering plants to fuel their fall migration. On the Central California Coast, late flowering nectar plant species are associated with the late season water availability offered by wetlands. Many of these plant species spread underground by rhizomatous roots. In coastal Northern Santa Cruz County, land and water use has significantly reduced and fragmented historical populations of late flowering nectar plants.

With support from the Wildlife Conservation Board, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, and the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, Groundswell worked to identify and map small scale wetlands in coastal Northern Santa Cruz County. Now, building on methodolgies piloted over the past five years, we are reintroducing late flowering nectar plants to high-priority sites. To do this we collect stolons and rhizomes from existing populations and transplant to adjacent suitible locations. We will later return to preform rapid assessments that evaluate the efficacy of this work.

Pollinator Corridors in the Urban Envelope

Groundswell is also working with community members to Build Pollinator Corridors across the Santa Cruz landscape. Through the Corridors Project, we provide community members with native plants for their yards and information on where and how to steward pollinator plants that support monarchs on their own properties. Contact us if you are interested in participating in this program. Planting monarch- friendly Early and Late Native Nectar Plants in our landscapes enables us all to chip in. Pollinator corridors expand biodiversity beyond the borders of State, Federal, and other local parks, effectively building ecological continuity across the landscape, and supporting wild migratory monarchs of Central California.