Mexico boosts butterfly reserve

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax
The Associated Press
Full Story HERE:

President Felipe Calderon unveiled a sweeping plan Sunday to curb logging and protect millions of monarch butterflies that migrate to the mountains of central Mexico each winter, covering trees and bushes and attracting visitors from around the world.

The plan will put $4.6 million toward additional equipment and advertising for the existing Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, covering a 124,000-acre swath of trees and mountains that for thousands of years has served as the winter nesting ground to millions of orange- and black-winged monarch butterflies.

Calderón said it would help boost tourism and support the economy in an impoverished area where illegal logging runs rampant.The new initiative is part of ongoing efforts to protect the butterflies, which are a huge tourist attraction and the pride of Mexico.

In some areas, officials even can be found standing guard along highways and slowing cars that might accidentally hit a butterfly flying across the road.While the monarch butterfly does not appear on any endangered-species lists, experts say illegal logging in Mexico threatens its existence in North America because it removes the foliage that protects the delicate insects from the cold and rain.

The reserve already receives some $36.4 million in government funding, and its staff includes a team of park rangers who patrol the area equipped with assault rifles and body armor searching for armed gangs of lumber thieves.The World Wildlife Fund and the Mexican Fund for Nature Conservation say the efforts are paying off.

They say this year saw a 48 percent drop in illegal logging, compared to a year ago.

Each September, the butterflies ( leave the US ) begin their 3,400-mile journey from the forests of eastern Canada and parts of the United States (traveling) to the central Mexican mountains.

The butterflies return to the U.S. and Canada in late March, where they breed and cycle through up to five generations before heading back south.


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