Illegal Logging Gangs Threaten Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Mexico

A guerilla war is underway in Mexico’s idyllic Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, where millions of black-and-orange monarch butterflies alight every year at the end of a migratory journey that begins in Canada and the Great Lakes states. On one side lie conservation groups, government agencies, and local forest-watch community groups struggling to preserve the delicate, fragile ecosystem; on the other lie organized, armed, illegal logging syndicates. Whereas conservationists once believed the “starving peasant myth” that poor locals were the ones felling trees in the area, they now realize that the culprits are in fact well-funded criminal gangs operating out of large Mexican cities, says Jordi Honey-Roses, who heads a program whereby the World Wildlife Fund offers grants to communities that preserve surrounding forests. Since Mexican government efforts to fight the gangs are halting and underfunded, hope is now being pinned on local indigenous communities. Says Honey-Roses, “Our responsibility is to empower them to protect what is theirs.”