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Satellite imagery has shown the loss of trees. Satellite imagery has shown the loss of trees.

Alarm raised over tree cutting in reserve

Satellite imagery helps reveal loss of forest area in Monarch Butterfly Reserve

More illegal logging has been detected in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve as timber values exceed those of incentive grants to local communities to preserve the trees.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has requested that the environmental protection agency Profepa strengthen its surveillance of a section of the reserve within the ejido of San Felipe de los Alzati, in Zitácuaro, Michoacán, where high rates of deforestation caused by illegal logging have been detected.

The monitoring of the Michoacán forest was done by the WWF and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) by comparing the latest satellite imagery and photographs with previous seasons. The findings were then validated by specialized field teams deployed in the reserve.

The reports indicate that during the 2014-2015 season, deforestation took place on 21.01 hectares. It was also determined that 19.9 hectares of that area, most of it within San Felipe de los Alzati, were lost due to illegal logging.

It wasn’t clear to the WWF México if loggers had infiltrated the community’s forests, as has been reported in previous years, or if it was residents of San Felipe who organized the logging of the oyamel fir trees.

During the previous  2013-2014 season, 5.08 hectares of forest were lost in San Felipe.

Communities adjacent to the Monarch Biosphere Reserve are part of the Monarch Fund which, among other activities, grants them financial incentives for preserving the forests.

In order to eradicate the illegal logging, WWF general director Omar Vidal believes it necessary to increase the incentives: “By themselves, the grants of the Monarch Fund can’t compete with timber prices in the illegal market.”

The fund has contributed 40 million pesos to local communities in the last 10 years. A WWF-Telcel alliance has contributed 80 million more, while federal agencies have also contributed a portion. The incentives pay for reforestation programs, surveillance or environmental services. Vidal thinks it isn’t enough: “It is important to increase [the amount of the incentives], but also invest them strategically.”

The same monitoring efforts showed that only 1.11 hectares of the reserve were lost to droughts, pests, lightning and landslides, and 0.77 hectares were logged for local consumption by 11 agrarian communities.

The reserve, a 56,000-hectare World Heritage Site that straddles the borders of Michoacán and the State of México, was created to protect the winter habitat of millions of monarch butterflies that migrate annually from the United States and Canada. Their numbers have been declining over several years.

Harvesting wood from the forests has been a traditional activity for local communities.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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