Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation
to Protect Monarch Butterfly Wintering Habitat in Mexico
You Can Help
Each fall, monarch butterflies east of
the Rocky Mountains migrate to high-altitude oyamel fir forests in central
Mexico, where they overwinter in extraordinary aggregations of millions
of individuals. Habitat degradation in these overwintering sites has led
to the formal designation of "threatened phenomenon" to the monarch
butterfly migration, and a first priority in world butterfly conservation.
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:
nuclear zone, in which no cutting is allowed, and
buffer zone, in which limited cutting is allowed.
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.
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.
The Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation (MBSF) was established in August,
1997 by scientists and educators concerned about this rapid loss of habitat.
Monarch biologist Dr. Lincoln Brower, who has conducted research in the
Mexican sanctuaries for over two decades, will serve as Chairman of the
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."
support of this effort is needed.
To contribute, please send donations to:
Dr. Karen Oberhauser, President
The Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation
2078 Skillman Avenue
Roseville, Minnesota 55113 USA
should be made payable to:
The Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation
of the Foundation has included:
Scientific Documentation of Monarch Use of Sanctuary
MBSF is working with World Wildlife Fund-Mexico (WWF) to develop GIS (Geographic
Information System ) mapping of the locations of butterfly colonies in
the reserves and the past and current conditions of the forest. This GIS
will enable scientists to present a coherent, compelling, data-based document
to the Mexican government for their use in a real long-term policy revision
of the decree that includes the extension of the protected monarch reserves
and incorporates the currently unprotected ones.
This will promote the establishment of an effective conservation scheme
to protect the overwintering sanctuaries of the monarch butterfly and
the oyamel forest ecosystem. This will be done by providing decision-makers
with updated information on the ecological parameters that define habitat
requirements of the monarch butterfly in the overwintering sites and the
consequences of the different preservation schemes contemplated.
Translation of Scientific Papers
Throughout the years, extensive research has been done on the monarch
butterfly's biology and migration by American, Canadian and Mexican scientists.
However the sharing of information has been stymied due to the language
barrier. Consequently the MBSF has set as one of its goals to facilitate
the exchange between scientists translating the numerous papers that have
been writtenon the subject. Our end goal is to have a newsletter or journal
where articles will be published in both languages. In working towards
this goal we have begun to translate what we consider are some of the
most important papers that have been written in the past. To date, we
have finished 6.
Evaluation of Effect of Recent Forest Fires
Concerned about the fires that devastated Mexico in the late nineties,
MBSF personnel visited the monarch butterfly sanctuaries to observe first-hand
how they had been affected. Unfortunately many of this fires are generated
by the local farmers who practice "slash and burn" agricultural
techniques. Additionally once a forest is burned in Mexico, no matter
where it is or what its protected status is, the law allows logging of
the burned wood (so-called "salvage-logging"). Inevitable land
use change ensues. However this year the Mexican environmental authorities
have issued a contingency plan. Aware of their lack of resources to implement
post-fire strategies in all the forests that burned throughout Mexico,
they will assess all the areas to establish high-priority areas that need
to be protected immediately. The MBSF in its joint effort with WWF is
working with the government to establish the sanctuaries as high-priority
areas and is promoting natural regeneration in the area. The main priority
now is to prohibit all access to the area to avoid land use changes.