Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Enforcing Forest Protection Laws in Mexico

Last week, Mexican police conducted the largest raid on illegal logging operations in the nation’s history. Raiding 19 sawmills, police arrested 56 people and seized roughly 6,600 tons of illegally harvested timber. The raids occurred around the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Central Mexico.

Monarchs migrate to Mexico in winter, where they depend on a forest that has been severely depleted by organized illegal logging. During a cold spell in 2002, more than 250 million monarchs died due, in part, to the dwindling forest canopy.

Illegal logging is a threat not only to the butterflies, but also to the people of the area. International NGOs, such as the World Wildlife Fund, have supported a growing local opposition to the illegal industry. Such opposition can be quite dangerous, however, as the murder of local environmentalist Aldo Zamora last summer demonstrates.

Last week’s raids came shortly after Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced a plan to add over $4 million to efforts that have reduced illegal logging in the reserve nearly 50 percent over the last year. Although just a few years ago residents frequently complained that authorities failed to follow-up on tips of illegal harvesting, it seems that the Mexican government is now taking the threat seriously and realizing ecotourism and other benefits of ensuring the forest remains intact.



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