Protecting the Monarchs

MP News Staff

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico will enforce a “zero tolerance” policy against logging that threatens to wipe out the monarch butterfly and will act to stop a rare and ancient oasis from drying up, President Felipe Calderon said on Saturday.Calderon said soldiers will be deployed to clamp down on illegal logging in a protected forest where monarch butterflies winter after migrating thousands of miles from Canada and the United States.

“We will work intensively to establish a zero tolerance policy to illegal logging in the monarch zone,” he told villagers in the region at the launch of a five-year conservation plan.He said 10 million trees would be planted in the butterfly reserve, part of a goal to plant 250 million trees across Mexico in 2007.Calderon said soldiers and federal police would patrol the zone looking for loggers, while the number of personnel in the zone and in other wildlife sanctuaries would increase by 15 percent.Every autumn, millions of monarch butterflies leave Canada and the United States, flying distances of 2,800 miles (4,500 km) to the oyamel fir forests of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains. Experts say the butterfly will become extinct unless illegal logging is stopped soon.

LIFE ON MARS

Calderon also promised to apply stricter controls on the extraction of water from a giant reservoir that sits beneath an ancient oasis in the Great Chihuahuan Desert. Scientists say the Cuatro Cienegas pools in northern Mexico can help them understand Earth’s beginnings, global warming and the possibility of life on Mars. But farmers could dry up the warm water pools by the end of the decade if they keep tapping underground water supplies to grow green alfalfa leaves to feed dairy cows, biologists say.

Prized by NASA researchers, the 170 cactus-ringed pools at Cuatro Cienegas contain fish, snails, turtles, bacteria and unique living rock structures that offer a glimpse of the life forms that flourished on Earth 200 million years ago. A loophole in current Mexican legislation means anyone can dig a well and extract water in the Cuatro Cienegas area. Scientists and locals in Cuatro Cienegas blame big dairy groups in the nearby city of Torreon, northern Mexico’s main milk-producing center, for drilling wells to grow alfalfa and buying milk from producers who feed the crop to their cows.

Mexico will also extend and create new wildlife reserves along the coasts of the Baja California peninsula and in the surrounding seas. Calderon did not mention the total budget for the conservation plan, but said $5 million would be spent protecting endangered Mexican species like jaguars, Mexican wolves, leatherback turtles and the Gulf of California harbor porpoise.

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