Mexico Strengthens Protection for Monarch's Forest!
November 9, 2000

Mexican President Signs Decree to Increase Monarch Sanctuaries
Last week, while millions of monarch butterflies were arriving at their over-wintering forest, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo signed a decree that will greatly increase the size of their protected sanctuaries.

In total, the size of the monarch sanctuaries will increase from only 62 square miles (16,000 hectares) to 216 square miles (56,000 hectares). Most importantly, the critical "core" zone, where logging is forbidden, was increased from 4,491 hectares to 13,552 hectares. In the surrounding buffer zone, controlled logging and forest activities are allowed. Here are the final numbers, for comparison:

Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries
(measured in hectares)
Click here to see map.)
  Before Now Increase
Core 4,491 13,552 9,061
Buffer 11,619 42,707 31,088
Total 16,110 56,259 40,149

World Wildlife Fund's Monica Missrie, who coordinates the Monarch Project in Mexico, provided these summaries of the special event, as well as an excellent overview of the history of land protection in Mexico for the monarch:

Dr. Lincoln Brower, who has studied monarchs there since 1977, was an honored guest at the signing. He sent this report to Journey North students:

"On Thursday we all went to the President's huge public offices in Los Pinos, the official 'home' of the President and where he meets the press, etc. Guiillermo Castilleja and Monica Missrie of World Wildlife Fund and I had assigned seats in the front row, facing President Zedillo.

President Zedillo sees children's appreciation for support of monarchs.

"The last speech was by the President, who looked directly at us as he spoke. Then, he walked forward to shake hands with the guests. As he came to me, he spent about 30 seconds thanking me personally, and as he did I handed him the beautiful photo album that Journey North sent as a gift 'from all the children of North America'... He was very gracious, with the TV cameras buzzing and the press flashing. Everyone loved to see the pictures of the Symbolic Migration."

Historic Milestone: Mexico's First Trust Fund for Conservation
A $5 million trust fund has also been established through a gift from the Packard Foundation. The fund will purchase the annual logging permits from the people who own land in the core zone of the new sanctuary. This means that these landowners, who are giving up their logging rights, will be paid $18 per cubic meter for NOT logging their forest.

How a "trust fund" works: The $5 million will never be spent. It will be invested so that, just like a saving account in a bank, the money generates "interest". These interest payments, some $350,000 per year, will be used to buy the logging permits.

The signing of this conservation law was one of President Zedillo's final acts before he leaves office at the end of this month. A total of 30 new natural protected areas will have been designated during his administration. In addition, last March President Zedillo also acted to protect the birthing grounds of the gray whale, after a five-year controversy--and after receiving a million letters from concerned people all over the world. A proposed saltworks would have disrupted the gray whale birthing lagoons in the Mexican state of Baja California. (See this Spring, 2000 update.)

Thank you President Zedillo!
If your class would like to send a letter of thanks to outgoing Mexican president Zedillo.

Presidente Ernesto Zedillo
Palacio Nacional
Patio de Honor, 20 Piso
Mexico City, D.F. 06067

Thank You for Helping Monarchs!
As part of the Symbolic Migration this fall, Journey North participants donated a total of $7,272 for monarch conservation in Mexico. A heartfelt thanks to the children and teachers of the 459 U.S. and Canadian schools listed below for their contributions. Their example reminds us of our responsibility for monarch conservation--not only when the monarchs grace our own backyards, but also during the long months of winter.

Thanks to the following people......y Gracias de las mariposas monarcas!

Monica Missrie coordinates the Monarch Program for World Wildlife Fund

The donations sent by schools during the past 3 years have been directed from the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation (MBSF) to the World Wildlife Fund Mexico (WWF/Mexico). And it is the WWF/Mexico who worked with the Mexican government to accomplish the successes described today. MBSF provided half of the salary of the program officer who coordinated the work, Monica Missrie. In reading today's report, students and teachers can take pride in knowing that they truly affected conservation in a significant way.

Constant Vigilance Needed to Ensure True Conservation
While the signing of this law is good news, enforcement of the sanctuary boundaries is the key to long-term success. Logging of the forests has been occurring at an alarming rate, even though the land is "protected" by law. According to Ms. Missrie: "A study of aerial photographs taken in 1971, 1984 and 1999, shows that 44% of conserved, dense forests were degraded between 1984 and 1999.

From a manuscript in review by "Conservation Biology" titled "Quantitative changes in forest quality in a principal overwintering area of the monarch butterfly in the states of Michoacan and Mexico: 1971 to 1999"; Courtesy of World Wildlife Fund, Mexico, and the authors, L. P. Brower, G. Castilleja, A. Peralta, J. Lopez-Garcia, L. Bojorquez, S. Diaz, D.Melgarejo, and M. Missrie. 2001.




"The study also indicates that throughout this 28-year period, the forests have been severely fragmented. What in 1971 was an almost continuous mass of conserved forests, is now a series of 'islands' with great pieces of degraded forest between them. The main causes for deforestation are legal and illegal logging, changes in land use (forests have now become agricultural and grazing lands) and forest fires."

Copyright 2001 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
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