Today I being a series of blogs to tell the story of how I intend to protect the oyamel trees in Mexico. That’s where the monarchs roost, high in the mountains, after their epic migration each Fall. From Canada, it is more than 3,000 km.
Monarch conservation spans three countries: Mexico, the United States, and Canada. The migration passes through the US twice. For the northern migration from Mexico, there must be an adequate supply of milkweed, as it is the only plant on which a monarch will lay its eggs. It used to be abundant, in open meadows and roadsides, on the edges of farms and between the rows of crops, especially corn. Those habitats have been seriously diminished by development, and the use of herbicide resistant corn, which has wiped out the milkweed that used to grow along side it. The monarchs also need nectar plants on which to feed, on both their northern and southern migrations. Over the past two years, since the Presidents of all three countries got together and actually agreed on something (conserving the monarch butterfly), the US is making great strides in restoring monarch habitat, to the benefit of all pollinators, and every other living thing. Monarch Watch is playing a big part in the recovery. Canada is where the monarch population rebuilds through 2 or even 3 generations, before heading back to Mexico. For its part, although not as critical, regions have been removing milkweed from the list of noxious plants, citizens have been planting it encouraged by the David Suzuki Foundation which has distributed 10,000 milkweeds just in Toronto, and efforts are being made to restore habitat under the hydro wires.
In the early 1980’s, the areas where the monarchs roosted in Mexico were decreed a federal reserve. Though privately owned, the people who made their living from the land were no longer allowed to log or farm. Compensated to some extent, the indigenous population struggles to earn a living. Tourism has provided some employment and revenue, but many are driven to log illegally, just to feed the family. Efforts are made to police the forests, but loggers manage to gain access in the middle of the night, when even the watchmen cannot cover such a large area. Charitable organizations provide money and knowledge for reforestation, and supply fuel efficient ovens that use a fraction of the wood needed before (Monarch Butterfly Fund).
I asked myself, if poverty is what fuels most of the illegal logging in the biosphere, how can I help alleviate it? Then, in November of last year (2015), I chanced upon an inspiring photo on a Facebook group called The Beautiful Monarch. Sandy Frederick posted a shot of the rocks she painted as Christmas gifts for her friends. That image drew 500 likes, along with dozens of requests to purchase them, even though there was never an intention to sell them. I wondered whether rocks like this were sold to monarch butterfly tourists in Mexico. I had some contacts who might help me found out, and set about to inquire. Next week: Getting to the eureka moment.