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Monarchs and the Forest

The Monarch Butterfly Fund story begins with the story of the monarch and its overwintering home. 

Every year, monarchs from across eastern North America migrate south to a very small area of high-altitude forest in Central Mexico where they perch, dormant for several months, protected from freezing weather by the trees. Early scientists studying these overwintering colonies, including one of our founders, Lincoln Brower, and his graduate students, recognized the importance of the Pine-Fir forest ecosystem occupied by the monarchs. Fir trees are locally called oyamel. These forests were the key to the monarch’s survival. But these forests faced numerous threats, from illegal logging, firewood harvesting, forest fires and disease, even cattle grazing. Most of these forests were and still are owned collectively by local communities who rely on this land for income and sustenance. In 1980, the Mexican government established the Wild Reserve and Refuge Zone, protecting the sites during the winter when monarch butterflies overwintered.

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