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to Protect Monarch Butterfly Wintering Habitat in Mexico
Many studies have demonstrated that an intact oyamel forest ecosytem is key to the monarchs' winter survival. The forest provides unique microclimatic conditions which promote monarch survival in freezing temperatures, slow dessication (drying out), and conserve energy stores until the spring remigration. This forest ecosystem is the most endangered in Mexico, constituting less than 2% of Mexican forests. However, wood harvesting continues and many people are reluctant to control the access of the very poor landowners to their forests, even though current and projected demands on the forest cannot possibly be sustained.
A 1986 presidential decree created the "Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca," the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. This decree provided two zones of protection in five of the known monarch overwintering areas. The two zones of protection are:
The total land area in this reserve is 16110 hectares (about 60 square miles), with only 4490 hectares (less that 17 square miles) in the nuclear zone. Most of this land is in "ejido" ownership. (Ejidos are groups of peasant farmers whose hold land in communal ownership.) Significantly, these peasant landowners have not been adequately compensated for the logging limitations imposed by the decree.
This has resulted in continued resource demands on the forests that are incompatible with the survival of overwintering monarch butterflies. Logging activities are presently occurring in and around the sanctuaries--on a legal and illegal basis--posing a threat to the monarch's winter habitat.
Says Brower, "Over the past 20 years, millions of dollars have been directed toward monarch conservation in Mexico, but have failed to address long-term conservation of the dwindling oyamel forest ecosystem. At the same time, the economic needs of the people who depend on the forest for survival have never been adequately addressed. A solution is needed that will allow the people and the butterflies to coexist with the forest in a long-term sustainable manner."
The initial work of the Foundation will entail the design and implementation of a model economic program with an ejido which owns land in the Sierra Chincua sanctuary, the largest and most pristine monarch overwintering area in the world. This community presently depends on income from logging in the buffer zone of the Sierra Chincua sanctuary.
Through a leasing agreement, the community has agreed to cease logging of the sanctuary forest and the MBSF will compensate the community for lost income. This contract will be similar in spirit to the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) for U.S. farmers, in which environmentally sensitive land is taken out of production and farmers are compensated for lost income.
Explains MBSF President Dr. Karen Oberhauser, "This approach is unique in that it will finally address the needs of monarchs--as well as the needs of the people who own the land on which the butterflies overwinter. As a private, people-to-people initiative, this project connects citizens of the United States and Canada who care about monarchs with the very people in Mexico who own the sanctuaries--and on whose future the monarch depends."
Your support of this effort is needed. To contribute, please send donations to:
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