Conservation Perspectives - by Jordi Honey Rosés
October 3, 2003
Over one hundred government officials, academics and conservationists met in Morelia, Michoacán on September 29th to discuss a proposal to co-organize a Monarch Regional Forum. Increased anticipation for the meeting resulted from an opinion article published the day before by Mexican poet and columnist Homero Aridjis, where he called upon government to take advantage of this gathering to reach agreements and to enforce the law.
The meeting was hosted by Michoacán Governor Lázaro Cárdenas Batel, and the Director of WWF Mexico Program, Omar Vidal. Not since President Fox visited the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in November 2001 had so many high level officials come to the same table to discuss Monarch Butterfly conservation. If one considers that President Foxs visit to the Reserve was purely ceremonial, as was the event signing into law the 2000 Monarch Protected Area, one could claim that not since the North American Morelia Conference in 1997 had such a high level working-group been convened to discuss conservation strategies for the Monarch Butterfly overwintering sites.
Participants in the meeting included the new Secretary of the Environment (SEMARNAT), Alberto Cárdenas, the new Director of the Environmental Attorney Generals Office (PROFEPA), José Luis Luege, the Director of Protected Areas (CONANP), Ernesto Enkerlin, the Director of the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN), Lorenzo Rosenzweig, Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve Director, Marco Antonio Bernal, and 15 municipal presidents, among others.
The proposal under discussion consisted in the co-organization of Monarch Regional Forum. The Forum proposes to offer a space for collaboration and inter-institutional coordination at a regional level that stretches beyond the boundaries of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The Monarch Regional Forum hopes follow the spirit, but not necessarily the size, of the 1997 Trinational Morelia Conference by bringing together governmental, non-governmental and academic actors actively working at the overwintering sites and surrounding region to share past, present and future activities. Thematic working groups will be formed along specific topics such as forest protection (law enforcement), scientific research, community organization and forest restoration, so as to identify priority actions and gaps needing attention. The information collected will be organized into a database that will show who is doing what, where, and how much they are investing in which areas. This information will be available in an annual publication and on a website. The annual publication will also provide transparency as to the projects implemented in the area and serve to monitor progress and evaluate project success. Specific products resulting from the Monarch Regional Forum would include a directory of institutions working at the overwintering sites, the establishment of priorities according to the working groups, the agreement to implement collaborative projects, and the already mentioned database.
Both SEMARNAT Secretary Cárdenas Jiménez and Michoacán Governor Cárdenas Batel enthusiastically received the Forum proposal. The Governor additionally stressed the need to follow through with the countless activities proposed in the overwintering sites. "In addition to all that has been proposed here
it is necessary that the Forum provides the follow through needed to be able to produce concrete results" emphasized Governor Cárdenas. Dr. Ernesto Enkerlin of the National Commission for Protected Areas (CONANP) asked that all the regional actors agree that the Monarch Regional Forum be the primary forum for sharing priorities and plans so as not to create an excess of meetings. Enkerlin also offered leadership from the CONANP in the co-organization of the first Monarch Regional Forum.
It has been mentioned that the Regional Forum, or rather, the formalizing of inter-institutional collaboration, is the next logical step toward protecting the overwintering sites in Mexico following the expansion of the 1986 protected area boundaries achieved in late 2000. Since then a new Reserve administration has been established with increased local presence. Now more than ever, the need has arisen for organizations to share workplans and strategies at the overwintering sites.
The Monarch Regional Forum is an opportunity for foundations and donors already working at the overwintering sites as well as for those interested in initiating Monarch conservation work in Mexico since the Forum will identify thematic and geographic gaps where attention is most needed. A consensus was reached at the meeting that U.S. and Canadian participation would be vital for the success of the Forum. Details regarding the Forum such as dates and logistics have yet to be decided but should be released soon. The Monarch conservation community from the U.S. and Canada were notably missing from Mondays meeting but it was agreed that they would certainly be invited to the official Forum once organized.
***The 2003 reforestation season has recently come to a close. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve has coordinated the planting of 877,800 trees in the Reserve this 2003 season. Trees came from the nurseries of the Federal Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), Michoacán state Forestry Commission (COFOM), State of Mexico Forestry Commission (PROBOSQUE), Municipal nurseries and private businesses, such as Rexcel. Of course, tree survival rate is key. An evaluation of the 2003 reforestation season in the Monarch region is being conducted, and soon will be made publicly available. *** The Zoological Society of San Diego has supported reforestation this season working directly with the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. They have also donated radios to communities suffering from illegal logging. *** 400 copies of an education manual on Monarch Butterfly biology called Mariposa Monarca: Uniendo un Continente (The Monarch Butterfly: Uniting a Continent) have arrived in Mexico and are currently being distributed to schools in and around the Reserve. This publication was written by both Mexican and U.S. biologists, has been translated into both languages and was published by the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation.
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.