A year ago, the Xerces Society, a conservation organization, reported the discouraging news that western monarch butterfly populations appeared to have declined by 86% in the preceding year, and even more from past decades. Surveys conducted at 213 California sites had found only 24,000 of the beautiful, black-and-orange insects which once numbered in the millions, bringing beauty and grace to hills, meadows and back yards throughout the state. The report was a reminder of one of the unintended consequences of modern life, including the use of agricultural chemicals that kill pests and non-pests indiscriminately.

So it was a pleasure to learn of the efforts of a long-time Livermore family, the Calhoun sisters, who are setting up a monarch butterfly preserve on their Mines Road ranch. Last month, working with conservation experts, they planted 1,600 plants on their ranch, like milkweed, which can provide nectar for the monarchs.

The Calhouns won’t be able to reverse the monarch’s decline on their own, of course. But by doing what they can with resources that they can control, they are showing how we can all take positive steps to help, whether we live on ranches or in towns. “There is the potential to make a big impact” if more of us follow their example, an Alameda County biologist said.

The Xerces Society provides much more information about saving monarch butterflies on its website, https://xerces.org/