Biodiversity loss is a growing concern and the habitats and species, including at-risk insect pollinators, that make up biodiversity are an increasing focus of land management. Beginning in 2018, a group of 40+ partners from across the energy and transportation sectors in the U.S., in collaboration with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) developed the first nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) to promote voluntary conservation of monarch butterfly habitat on energy and transportation lands. The UIC currently oversees the collaborative CCAA program, which was finalized and approved in April 2020. In a press release, Aurelia Skipwith, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted that “completing this agreement is a huge boost for the conservation of monarch butterflies and other pollinators on a landscape scale.”
CCAAs are regulatory mechanisms that encourage landowners and managers to adopt measures that create net conservation benefits in exchange for regulatory assurances that no additional requirements beyond the CCAA will be mandated if the monarch butterfly becomes listed (anticipated in 2024). CCAAs also provide a means for industry participants to demonstrate conservation commitments that may help avoid the need to list the species.
In the first two years of implementation,14 state, and local transportation agencies have enrolled in the Monarch CCAA and have committed to conserving over 560,000 acres of land across the United States. Through these commitments, the UIC and its partners have learned about collaborative conservation strategies and implementing conservation measures for the monarch butterfly at a large scale. In this session, an overview of the CCAA program and industry participation will be provided, along with an analysis from the first three program years, including monitoring trends, regional differences, and the influence of the CCAA on broader rights-of-way vegetation management for departments of transportation. We will also highlight key points on “why this works” and how those lessons can inform other large-scale conservation partnerships or agreements.