Why “Butterflies and Their People?”

The charismatic monarch butterfly is an iconic species; it’s the mascot of NAFTA and the anti-GMO food movement. The passions inspired by the monarchs’ incredible 3,500-mile annual migration brings together disparate groups of people across divisions of class and nation. Stakeholders include scientists, citizen scientists, nature enthusiasts, agro-industrial behemoths, international NGOS, Mexican bureaucracies, and the impoverished rural communities that live alongside the monarch’s overwintering colonies.

In this list, this last group has the least amount of access to power and resources. The monies that exist for monarch conservation in Mexico rarely seem to reach the monarchs’ neighbors. Yet local peoples’ ongoing exclusion from efforts to protect the endangered migration undermines all other conservation efforts. Our project enlists the help of Reserve residents in an extensive forest conservation program to keep that from happening.

In the process, we hope to build connections between local communities and others who are committed to protecting the monarch migration. Until recently, places like Macheros and Cerro Pelón have been largely off the grid. Electric power and potable water are recent arrivals. There is still no mail service, phone service, cellphone coverage and, until recently, no internet. Telecommunications challenges and language barriers and have meant that Reserve residents have had very little direct contact with monarch researchers in other countries (or even in other parts of Mexico). This project intends to bridge that gap by creating a space for communication and interchange between our arborists on the ground and scientists and citizen scientists throughout North America.