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24-OCT-03

Monarch Watch Email Updates: Conservation Perspectives

Conservation Perspectives - by Jordi Honey Rosés
September 22, 2003

This September, Mexican President Vicente Fox did a little shuffle. A cabinet shuffle, that is, removing the Federal Government’s top Environmental Officials: The Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Victor Lichtinger, gone. The head of the Mexican Environmental Attorney General’s Office (PROPEPA), responsible for enforcing environmental laws, including illegal logging, José Campillo, gone. The Fox shuffle even went down the ranks to remove SEMARNAT’s Subsecretary for Planning, Subsectretary for Management and Protection, top Legal Council and Director of International Affairs. They all got the boot, and now the questions are why, and what are the implications?

The Reforma Newspaper cited SEMARNAT’s internal disputes, leaks to the press, and the Ministry’s report on contaminated beaches as possible motives for removing the top environmental officials. (Reforma September 3) But one can’t help and wonder if the Monarch’s also partially led to the abrupt changes in SEMARNAT and PROFEPA.

In the case of the enforcement agency for environmental laws, PROFEPA, the connection between Monarchs and the cabinet shuffle might be more direct. PROFEPA has nervously been aware that conservationists are obtaining higher quality yet embarrassing deforestation data and aerial images in the Monarch Reserve. And only days before the cabinet changes, top PROFEPA officials invited conservation organizations and other government programs to a large meeting meant to share recent progress in the Monarch overwintering area. PROFEPA sought to announce the results of everyone’s progress in the Monarch Reserve in an international news conference. Only five days later when President Fox removed the top PROFEPA official, did it become clear that PROFEPA was motivated out of fear and desperation to attract words of praise in press. We will probably never know to what extent illegal logging in the Monarch Reserve pushed out the top PROFEPA officials, but even if deforestation in the Monarch region was not the direct cause for the changes in PROFEPA officials, it is interesting to note that Monarch butterfly conservation was indeed the PROFEPA’s topic of choice for salvation.

The implications of these changes for Monarch butterfly conservation are still not clear. Three weeks into the new administration, word is out that the PROFEPA representative in the State of Michoacán will be moved to another position within the PROFEPA. Other than that, no changes in the Monarch area have yet been made. SEMARNAT’s new Minister, Alberto Cárdenas, comes from the Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), served as Governor in the western state of Jalisco, and maintains strong ties to National Action Party and President Fox. His goal is to make SEMARNAT more efficient and transparent. Lastly, it is worthwhile noting that the Ernesto Enkerlin, Head of Mexico’s Protected Areas Commission (CONANP) and Exequiel Ezcurra, Head of the National Institute for Ecology, (The E_) appear to be secure in their positions. Not surprisingly both are tremendously well respected in the conservation field, if not the most well respected officials in Fox’s Environmental Cabinet.

*** The Monarch Expo, an educational exhibit and fair sponsored by the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) has been announced for November 21st and 22nd in Donato Guerra, in the State of Mexico, and Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th in Zitácuaro, State of Michoacan. One of the highlighted activities includes a bike ride through the rarely visited (one could even say, never visited) southern slope of the Chivatí-Huacal mountain range. Cyclists will follow a marked route through some of the few Indigenous Communities of the Reserve: Curungueo, Carpinteros, and Donanciano Ojeda. These Indigenous Communities, while part of the Protected Area since 1986, have never benefited from tourism. *** During the week of September 29 to October 3, the Mexican National Forest Commission, (CONAFOR) will be training 60 foresters, community members and related technicians in forest fire prevention and response. The training course will be held at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve’s research station known as the Llano de las Papas. *** NGO’s, academic institutions and government agencies are discussing the possibility of holding an Annual Monarch Regional Forum so as to coordinate the conservation efforts at the Mexican overwintering sites. This Forum hopes to follow the successful example of the 1997 Morelia Conference by bringing together all who actively work in the area. More details should be released in October.

1 Complete Reforma Article

Conservation Perspectives
Conservation Perspectives will provide regular and accurate updates on the local conservation issues at the Mexican overwintering sites of the Monarch Butterfly. This space will be a forum for discussion and sharing. The updates will serve as conduit for ideas and stories that are rarely heard from Mexican side of the border, especially those successes by local Mexican inhabitants to protect the forest of the Monarch Butterfly.

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