Much of a monarch butterfly’s (Danaus plexippus) life is spent migrating between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada-a journey that for some individuals can cover over 3,000 miles. However, this journey has become more dangerous and less successful for many because of deforestation, illegal logging, increased development, agricultural expansion, livestock raising, forest fires, and other threats to their migratory paths and summer and overwintering habitats. Since 1995, the Wildlife Without Borders - Mexico Program has made a continuing commitment to support the conservation of monarch butterflies.

Conserving the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Credit: USFWS

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico
Credit: USFWS

The monarch butterfly is not currently listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or protected specifically under U.S. domestic laws. In 1996, the Mexican government created the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve to protect monarch’s wintering habitat. The Wildlife Without Borders - Mexico Program partnered with ALTERNARE, A.C., a non-governmental organization located in Michoacan, Mexico. This organization implements a training program designed to develop the capacity of the local communities to sustainably manage their natural resources, and provide economic alternatives, while strengthening community organization and participation skills.

Using a farmer-to-farmer methodology, more than 3,000 people have been trained in soil and water conservation, intensive biodynamic horticulture, food preparation, adobe brick making, use and construction of wood-saving stoves and ecological bathrooms, fire control and prevention, production of forest trees, community organization, and participation and leadership. Since the first project in 1996 Wildlife Without Borders - Mexico has continued to work with ALTERNARE, A.C providing funding of approximately $900,000 for a total of 17 projects.

During the last two years, the program has supported ALTERNARE A.C’s “Sustainable Model for Recovery and Conservation of the San Juan Micro-Watershed in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve” project. The project continues to educate the communities on the value of monarch conservation and help the ejidatarios (peasant farmers) adopt sustainable and productive practices in order to recover the area’s ecosystem and butterfly habitat.

In addition to the work done by Wildlife Without Borders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System participates in the activities of the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to support and coordinate efforts to protect the monarch migration across the lower 48 United States.