Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Monarch Status and Glyphosate, Part 2

As mentioned in a previous post on this year's monarch migration down to Mexico, the weekly migration updates on the Journey North website stopped abruptly on November 11, with the main mass of monarchs still not having arrived in the mountain groves. No more news? What happened? Did the monarchs ever arrive? I emailed the website on Nov. 28, and got a same-day response from an Elizabeth Howard, with this good news:
"We're been waiting for news that the mass arrival has occurred--and just received word yesterday (that it happened the day before). We will be updating the sites soon-- maybe before Monday."
Great, the monarchs arrived, though nearly four weeks later than usual, and I'll feel better when their website is actually updated.

Another communication received, far less friendly, was an anonymous comment concerning the use of the herbicide glyphosate in habitat restoration. Part of the fallout from the massive use of glyphosate on genetically modified "Roundup-Ready" crops has been the demonization of glyphosate and everyone who uses it. The targets of criticism, in some people's minds, should include not only Monsanto and farmers, but also managers of nature preserves who may put a dab of glyphosate on the stumps of invasive shrubs so they don't grow back. Sure, I wrote, in what I thought to be a fairly insightful post, lets rail against the massive use of glyphosate on more than 100 million acres of farmland that once offered monarchs enough scattered milkweeds to prosper. But it's the massive use, not the chemical itself, that is the problem.

Antibiotics provide an analogous situation. Their power can be wisely used in medicine, or abused when indiscriminately given to animals in their feed. It would be unfair to vilify a doctor's careful prescribing of antibiotics because of industrial agriculture's wild excess. And the vilification of preserve managers, who use micro amounts of highly targeted herbicides in their work, is similarly unfair.

Personally, I haven't used herbicides of any kind in years, but any serious attempt to restore balance to a forest, to take on a monstrous, smothering stand of wisteria or thousands of winged euonymus and honeysuckle choking a hillside, will necessarily require some use of herbicide, well-timed and minimally applied.

If the anonymous commenter or anyone else would like to send an email, with name attached, I'd be glad to correspond on this subject. Maybe we can learn something from each other. In the meantime, a hope that the monarchs did in fact arrive and will be safe through the winter.

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