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Mexican Protection Efforts

The location of the overwintering grounds in the Mexican state of Michoacan was only located by non-natives in 1975. This remote area containing 13 overwintering sites also supports 75,000 natives who historically have used the oyamel fir trees for lumber. The logging of buffer zones around the sanctuaries and the need for the natives to sustain a living, historically from lumber, challenges the protection of the overwintering habitat. One oyamel fir tree nets the harvester $25. A loaf of bread costs 60 cents.

In 1986, through the efforts of a Mexican conservation group, Monarca, the Mexican government listed six protected sites (11,000 acres) plus surrounding buffer zones (another 28,000 acres) as ecological preserves. Recently, the governments of Mexico and Canada signed an agreement to create a protected forest in Mexico for migrating monarchs. Each government will contribute $837,000 (U.S.) to establish the 1.96 million acre reserve with the goal of encouraging sustainable regional development for the nearly 1 million people in the area.

Progress is being made but many problems still exist. Harvesting trees in the buffer zone is still allowed which is like punching holes in the protective blanket. Whereas the butterflies stop flying at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, they start to die under 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the normal temperature inside the forest during the winter months. Even in the protected zones, dead trees are allowed to be harvested. Some trees were found this last winter with axe wounds to promote disease to speed the demise of the trees. Natives still are in need of financial support beyond the benefits of the ecotourism now in the region.

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