Letter: There are monarch milestones worth celebrating in Utah — but also a new concern

When was the last time you saw a monarch butterfly? I’ve seen them almost daily for the past month and this isn’t by accident.

I’ve spent the past decade passionately advocating for the monarch butterfly and her pollinator friends, sharing native milkweed seeds and seedlings, teaching classes and helping Utahns create healthy breeding habitat to keep them visiting Utah each summer. The effort and the team working on this have grown and it is paying off – but we still have much to do. The western population of monarchs had declined 99% by 2020 — over four decades. But we have milestones worth celebrating.

In 2021, the “Utah Pollinator Habitat Program” was born, providing free native pollinator seedling kits Utahns can apply for each June, assembled and distributed in September. The inaugural 2022 season created approximately 250,000 square feet of new pollinator habitat along the Wasatch Front, and 2023 will exceed that.

The eastern side of Fairmont Park has been transformed into the most spectacular native pollinator habitat — thanks to the efforts of the Salt Lake City Public Lands team, and a native plant effort that started in 2018.

Monarchs have determined this a great breeding site for the past four summers, and a healthy ecosystem is thriving. I visit it daily.

On the other hand, a local small business has chosen to commercialize these beautiful creatures, purposefully breeding and selling them for profit. For $79.95, you, too, can get two caterpillars and a milkweed plant.

Is it legal? Technically. The bigger question is: Is it ethical in nature, and the answer depends on who you ask. Is it “Yay for capitalism!” or bad karma for making eighty bucks on the back of a creature currently listed as a candidate for the Endangered Species List?

Rachel Taylor, Salt Lake City

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