According to Samantha Marcum, monarch butterfly conservation coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Southwest Region, 4.5 million butterflies have disappeared on the West coast since 1980. That is a 99% decline of the monarch butterfly population. Monarchs will abandon a site if the habitat is no longer suitable. The significant, currently ongoing hard and soft structure habitat cutting at The Sea Ranch is decimating potential monarch butterfly habitat sites.
Monterey Cypress (along with Monterey Pine and Eucalyptus) are where the monarchs shelter and live. The Sea Ranch Association has approved extensive hard structure habitat cutting for “fire safety” this year even though–as the Center’s documentation shows–aesthetics and views actually drive much of the nonhuman habitat destruction, not safety issues.
(Sea Ranch residents have responded to inquiries by referring either to the Doug Fir or Pine mold “problems,” and each has used similar language to refer to these “issues.” Another mentioned she thought the cutting had to do with poison oak. Another pointed out that cutting for views has been happening at Sea Ranch since the beginning. None appear to understand what is happening on the ground in terms of tree cutting and clearing. Each was informed exclusively by The Sea Ranch Association.)
Currently, no Sea Ranch Association policies exist devoted to protecting monarch butterfly habitat in The Sea Ranch. Only two restrictions on landscape alterations apply to private property in The Sea Ranch: no perimeter fences and no non-native plants outside fenced courtyards. Human Sea Ranch residents are free to cut, spray, and clear as they see fit. The nonhuman beings are paying the price for that lack of regulation.
Before implementing any policy changes, The Sea Ranch Association ought to invite the U.S. Fish & Wildlife folks to assess Sea Ranch and discuss restoration of potential monarch butterfly habitat sites. Policy changes after understanding current conditions ensure the method (the rules) are connected to the on-the-ground actual conditions.
The Sea Ranch Association, then, needs to implement regulations devoted to protecting monarch butterfly habitat at The Sea Ranch. Additionally, TSRA needs to seriously consider revising its restrictions on planting outside fenced courtyards to include plants that will welcome and support monarch butterfly populations along this part of the West coast.
Ultimately, Sea Ranch “owners” are responsible for caring for this San Francisco Bay Area resource, but neglect, ignorance, and indifference are allowing just a few to make the decisions that are devastating this fragile place. That can change.