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CALEDONIA (AP)

A wildlife advocate hopes the village board of Caledonia will give milkweed — the host plant for monarch butterflies — a break.

Melissa Warner, of the Southeast Gateway Group of the Sierra Club, wants the southeastern Wisconsin village to remove milkweed from its list of noxious weeds. She says milkweed is critical for the survival of the monarch butterfly, which has seen a steep drop in its numbers.

With the number of monarch butterflies falling during the past two decades, the world needs all the milkweed it can get, Warner said.

'The easiest thing to fix is the milkweed,' Warner said. 'We can't change the climate or farming practices. But for monarchs, milkweed is essential, and in fact, critical.'

The village's legislative and licensing committee voted to recommend the village board omit milkweed from the noxious weed list, The Journal Times of Racinereported.

Last year experts said the number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico plunged to its lowest level since studies began in 1993.

Monarch butterflies are being considered for federal protection because their numbers throughout the continental U.S. have dropped by more than 90 percent in the past two decades. Much of the drop-off has been blamed on destruction of habitat that includes milkweed, where monarchs lay their eggs and which provides the sole source of food for caterpillars that later develop into the distinctive black-and-orange butterflies.

Under the village's noxious weed ordinance, specific weeds must be cut or destroyed by landowners before they reach between 10 and 12 inches tall. Violators must pay the cost of having the village's weed commissioner destroy the weeds. Fines start at $50.

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