More than 1,500 volunteers are helping to keep illegal loggers from felling trees in the national protected area of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the states of México and Michoacán.
In order to protect the forests and the monarch butterflies’ winter habitat, the federal government has implemented permanent surveillance by the National Gendarmerie and Army and Navy personnel who coordinate their monitoring with 1,650 community watchmen belonging to 85 Environmental Surveillance Committees.
Sabino Marín Reyes, 61, is one of those watchmen and three times a week he walks for two hours to reach the area, where he monitors activities in the forest in the hope that his presence will discourage loggers.
Marín says area residents fight the logging because they don’t want to lose more trees but there has been some danger.
Ten years ago he was injured in a gunfight with loggers and had to spend two months in hospital.
Watchmen like Marín warn authorities of any suspicious activity while they’re on patrol and they also have the role of replanting areas affected by illegal tree cutting.
This year, the community watchmen have reforested 100 hectares within the reserve grounds. For their efforts, environmental authorities provided them with uniforms and an economic stimulus of 7 million pesos (US $362,000), which amounts to just over 4,200 pesos for each watchman, or close to US $220.
Alejandro Ramírez Sánchez, a watchman since 1997, said Mexico City and the State of México have potable water thanks to surveillance of the forests.
“If they let the forest go there won’t be any water left.”
Extending over 56,259 hectares of forest land, the butterfly reserve is the wintering grounds for the migrating insects, but it is also one of the 108 forested areas identified by the authorities as being at risk due to illegal logging.
During the last year, reports of logging within the reserve have decreased by 40% compared to the previous season, yet the threat persists.