Reforesting for Monarch Habitat – La Cruz Nursery

Losing 90% of its population from its 20-year average, Monarch butterflies are at risk of extinction.[1]  On one end of their 2,000-mile migration, cornfields have displaced most ofAmerica's prairies along with the milkweed plants that monarchs breed on. On the other end, deforestation threatens their overwintering grounds Michoacán, Mexico. Taking action on behalf of this natural icon is La Cruz Nursery.

In 1997, Jose Luis Alvarez Alcala created the La Cruz Habitat Protection Project (LCHPP). That year he helped five families plant 7,000 trees total. The following year twenty families planted 40,000 trees. In 2008 La Cruz provided 740,000 trees, for a cumulative total of 4 million.[2]  While monarchs overwinter exclusively on oyamel fir (Abies religiosa), La Cruz also helps communities plant pines and other species to meet their fuel and timber needs. “Giving an alternative source of wood helps preserve the mature oyamel trees already there," said Luca Alvarez, Jose's son and nursery manager, "like a buffer zone around the Monarch Preserve."  La Cruz and the Alvarez's are partnered with Forests for Monarchs, an bi-national non-profit that: dedicated to protecting the monarch butterfly and other endemic species by reforesting the land surrounding the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, and to promote sustainable forest management among the local landowners for their economic benefit and forest conservation.[3]
Monarch Butterfly Forest Restoration Vivero La Cruz Michoacan Mexico

Monarch Butterfly Forest Restoration Vivero La Cruz Michoacan Mexico Habitat Project

La Cruz also supplies tree seedlings for a wide range of reforestation initiatives. When we visited (December 7th, 2017) the nursery was growing 650,000 trees, Luca said, including 250,000 for Conafor, the National Forestry Commission, who's reforesting 15,000 acres in 2017 in Michoacán alone.  [link Conafor project: Reforesting for Community (coming soon)]  It's overall goal, La Cruz Nursery "works with different reforestation projects in areas damaged by humans or nature, to protect and restore local fauna and flora."[4]

Monarch Butterfly Forest Restoration Vivero La Cruz Michoacan Mexico trees

Other reforestation initiatives supported by La Cruz include:
  • Avocado plantations – While important to the state economy, avocado farming displaces 345,000 acres of forest in Michoacán.[5]  The state government therefore, urges cooperation from avocado growers in reforestation, on 160,000 acres according to one official, who said in 2016 that seed collection and nursery efforts must be intensified.[6] 
  • Highways – Rows of oaks help beautify Michoacán's highways and sequester carbon.
  • Lake watersheds – Reforesting around Lake Zirahuen and Lake Patzcuaro will help regulate rainwater runoff and slow erosion. Scientists predict these lakes will disappear in 20 years and 5 years, respectively, due to siltation and deforestation of the watersheds, according to Luca.
  • Christmas trees – Locally grown trees are less likely to transport pests and cost less to both the environment (less fuel to transport) and the consumer (300 pesos compared to the 500-600 pesos for imported trees). This income from the holiday season helps fund the other reforestation projects.
La Cruz is devoted to sustainability. Fertilizers are all organic: bat droppings, fermented vegetation, and vermicompost (worm droppings).  Seeds are locally sourced, and the nursery provides meaningful employment to the community.  Education and outreach is another objective.  Luca teaches organic gardening to local communities, as well as reforestation methods.

Monarch Butterfly Forest Restoration Vivero La Cruz Michoacan Mexico trees jobs

To support these reforestation efforts and help save the monarch:

Monarch Butterfly Forest Restoration Vivero La Cruz Michoacan Mexico

Monarch Butterfly Forest Restoration Vivero La Cruz Michoacan Mexico vermicompost worms

[1] “Saving the Monarch Butterfly,” Center for Biological Diversity. AND
 "Conservation Status of the Monarch Butterfly in the United States," NatureServe (2015)
[2] Sue Sill, "Reforesting Michoacan: Small communities in rural Mexico restore Monarch Butterfly Habitat," American Forests Magazine (Winter, 2009).
[3] Forests for Monarchs (official website).
[4] Hacienda la Cruz, Vivero Forestal (official website).
[5] "Michoacán, líder mundial en producción de aguacate," El Economista (June 25, 2017).
[6] Oscar Esquivel, "Piden a Aguacateros trabajar en Reforestacion," Cambio de Michoacán (Feb. 15, 2016).

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