After our visit to the Monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Michoacan this spring we’ve been monitoring conditions there from afar.   The news has not been good.
A Google search of “mariposa monarca” the Spanish translation for Monarch butterfly, returns disturbing headlines.

Wildfires in Michoacan

Wildfires in Mexico: bad news for Monarch butterflies–photo, El Cambio de Michoacan

“Monarch Zone in Danger,” was the headline June 5 in El Cambio of Michoacan.    The article describes how a wildfire at Zitacuaro’s Cerro Cacique, not far from the Monarch’s ancestral roosting sanctuaries and the town in which we stayed during our recent visit, was finally extinguished after three days.  The writer suggests a connection between overzealous logging in the area and the hyperactive wildfire season in Mexico this year.
Other articles address the effects of fires-gone-wild in Michoacan:
A June 16 dispatch from Primer Plano, an online publication also in Zitacuaro, bemoaned the “irrational exploitation of our natural resources” claiming that it will take almost one billion pesos to restore the destruction of the forests that host millions of Monarchs each fall.   Illegal logging, climate change, and now raging wildfires throughout the region complicate the challenges of preserving the unique ecosystem the butterflies consider their home.
And on June 10, El Sol de Morelia, reported from a forestry conference held there.  Thanks to logging and wildfires more than 80,000 acres of forest and 12,000 acres of jungle have been lost in the last 30 years–JUST in Michoacán.  The story was illustrated by a color photo of an enormous, fallen tree on the roadside, the apparent victim of a new road.
“This equates to a level of deforestation between .47 and .65 percent–high in comparison with other areas of the country,” wrote reporter Silvia Hernández González.
The news is painful for Monarch butterflies, those of us enchanted by them and our Mexican neighbors.  Nonprofit organizations and the Mexican government have spent millions of dollars building a viable ecotourism economy in recent years.   Drug violence in Mexico has kept tourists away, and nature has colluded to paint a dreary forecast for the Monarch migration this year and beyond.  The unique and irreplaceable ecosystem that hosts millions of Monarchs each year is literally under fire.
The fall migration will tell more of the story, but it seems likely we’ll have a repeat of the dreary 2009 season.