monarch butterflies Millions of monarchs migrate in the fall from the United States and Canada.

Volunteers plant trees for the butterflies

15,000 oyamel firs planted in Ocampo, Michoacán

A tree-planting project in forests where monarch butterflies spend their winters has been completed by 750 volunteers with help from an international conservation organization and the private sector.

The volunteers, from Puebla, Querétaro, Jalisco and Mexico City, planted 15,000 oyamel fir trees on the community-owned lands at El Rosario in Ocampo, Michoacán, where the 5,000 residents depend on the tourism that the butterflies’ annual migration brings.

The trees were provided through a joint investment by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the private sector.

“Natural phenomena like wildfires, frost . . . cause the degradation of forests, phenomena that with the onset of climate change are becoming more serious. That’s why it’s important to reforest, to compensate for that loss,” said Jorge Eduardo Rickards Campbell, acting CEO of WWF-Mexico.

A state tourism official recognized the contribution by residents. The butterfly migration is so important for them “that they have given up over 1,500 farm plots to the forest, and we need to acknowledge this,” said Roberto Molina Garduño.

“Thanks to the butterflies we have an income for four months, from November to March. We also have better roads . . . new investors,” said ejido representative Homero Gómez González.

The people of El Rosario care for the forests year round with surveillance, soil preservation programs and cultivating oyamel fir trees in greenhouses.

Rickards added that the efforts of the small Michoacán town also benefit Mexico City. “These forests capture an important percentage of the water we get here. If we lose these forests we’ll have less water.”

Preservation of their forests goes back a long time for citizens of Michoacán. Centuries ago, Purépecha legend had it that the monarch butterflies returned every year because they were the souls of dead children coming back to their families. So the people had to ensure the children had a place to come back to.

Source: Excélsior (sp)

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