Monarch Butterfly Model Forest
Every autumn, millions, perhaps a billion, butterflies from wide areas of North America migrate to Mexico. They concentrate in forested ridges of the Sierra Madres Mountains in the States of Michoacan and Mexico located northwest of Mexico City. The butterflies are so concentrated that they colour the trees orange and the branches bend under their weight. Here they overwinter before they begin their journey back to Canada. This migration, up as far as Canada and back, takes eight months during which time four successive generations are born and die. How they manage to find their way back to their wintering area remains a mystery.
These critical overwintering areas are under threat due to clearing for agricultural and illegal logging brought on by a lack of economic opportunities for the local people. In 1995, the Manitoba Model Forest (MBMF) began working with the Monarch Butterfly Model Forest (Bosque Modelo Mariposa Monarca) to produce a strategic plan to increasing eco-tourism opportunities and diversifying the local economy in order to assist in the protection of the monarch butterfly habitat. Funding for the program was provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
We worked collaboratively with the Monarch Butterfly Model Forest on numerous projects including reforestation and protection of monarch butterfly habitat, agro-forestry, environmental education, non-timber forest products, eco-tourism and gender equity. We also established an educational exchange between elementary students in Manitoba and students in the Monarch Butterfly Model Forest area. In recognition of our international success, the Government of Manitoba acknowledged the MBMF with the Excellence in Sustainable Development Award for our work in Mexico. A more detailed description of the projects undertaken with the Monarch Butterfly Model Forest is contained in the Publication section under International Projects.
In 2008, the Monarch Butterfly Model Forest area was incorporated into the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve as a World Heritage Site under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Biosphere Reserve continues the work initiated by the MBMF on the work with local communities on environmental protection, the provision of alternative livelihoods to logging and the sustainable public use of the area by tourists seeking to experience this unique natural phenomena.