I'm super excited today because our friend Jose Luis Alvarez is coming to visit Vermont this fall to collaborate with us on a project to help save the Monarch butterfly. Jose Luis is a silviculturist in Mexico who has devoted his life to restoring the forested winter habitat of the Monarch. Last month I traveled to Michoacan, Mexico to meet Jose Luis & see his work. I love Monarchs & we've been conserving their summer habit here in Vermont for many years so I thought maybe we should collaborate and get some Vermont-Mexico synergy going!
Conserving Monarch Habitat in Mexico
In 1997, Jose Luis created a non-profit called "Forests For Monarchs", which came to be known as the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program (in the USA) and the Michoacan Restoration Fund (in Mexico). With donations from people all across the USA, Canada and Mexico, "Forests for Monarchs" has been able to plant nearly 6 million trees. When I toured through Michoacan (where the Monarchs over-winter) with Jose Luis, I was able to see some of his reforested woodlots.
During the winter Michoacan, Mexico is home to the entire species of the Eastern Monarch Butterfly (which summers in Vermont). You can see how illegal deforestation has devastated the area. Red arrows show some of the parcels that Jose Luis Alvarez has reforested. He's made great progress but much re-planting still needs to be done.
Conserving Monarch Habitat in Vermont
Here in rural Vernon, Vermont a number of friends, neighbors, customers, gardeners and Vernon Elementary School children have been planting milkweed, which is the Monarch's summer habitat. I remember when my kids were little we would find milkweed all along the cornfields in town. It was easy to find Monarch caterpillars munching on the milkweed during August and September. Now there's no milkweed. And no Monarchs. So we've been growing milkweed from seed and giving the seedlings away to fellow Monarch lovers.
Did you know it's easier to persuade friends to plant milkweed if you offer them wine along with the seedlings?
A Vermont - Mexico Partnership
Monarchs summering in Vermont are programmed to migrate to Michoacan, Mexico in the Fall. There they join the entire population of their species, huddled together in the shelter of the last few remaining acres of their wooded winter habitat. Mind-boggling, right? How can an insect (that only weighs as much as a raisin) fly 3000 miles, to the exact same location it's ancestor came from-- when it's never even been there before? I had to see it to believe it. So...
I traveled to Mexico (with my now grown up sons) to meet Jose Luis and we took his Spirit of Butterflies Tour last month. It was amazing. But we were alarmed to see the extent of deforestation in the area. Without help reforesting their habitat, the Monarch will soon go the way of the passenger pigeon & that would be just too sad. So we brainstormed about developing a Vermont-Mexico partnership to help save the butterfly.
The Jose Luis Alvarez "Save the Monarchs Tour"
Besides being a forester, Jose Luis is an internationally renowned speaker. He's been featured in numerous documentary films by the BBC, National Geographic, the Canadian Broadcasting Channel and others. He’s been an advisor and guide to researchers, scientists, photographers & videographers from all over the world as they seek to save the Monarch. His work has been written about in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal & The New York Times.
So we thought we should bring Jose Luis up to Vermont and New England for a speaking tour to raise awareness about the Monarch's plight.
I guess I got a little carried away and volunteered to help Jose Luis Alvarez plant a million trees in the Monarch's over-wintering area of Mexico. But if you've read all the way down to this, I think you might have done the same thing. How can we let this incredible animal go extinct? Please contact me if you'd like to help by planting milkweed or promoting our "Save the Monarchs" tour.
Will You Help Us?
I'm starting to put the tour together now and looking for audiences who'd be interested in learning about the Monarchs and planting milkweed. I'll be contacting everyone from the 3rd grade class at Vernon Elementary School to the entomologists at the Gund Institute, UVM. We'll also be reaching out beyond Vermont to universities, botanical gardens and others throughout New England and the Northeast.
If you know of people &/or organizations that might be interested, please contact us via Facebook or on our website. The tour will be during August - September. I'll keep you posted as it evolves.
Contact me for seeds or seedlings. Here are some other ways to help:
- Donate to Forests for Monarchs
- Take The Spirit of Butterflies Tour
- Watch the LCHPP video about the Monarchs
Thank You, DJ Agnew
Jose Luis' tour is made possible by the generous contribution of DJ Agnew of Alameda, CA. DJ has been a long time supporter of "Forests for Monarchs", having volunteered countless hours to support the group's mission. She is a true friend of the Monarchs and we are immensely grateful for her support.
Update on Schedule for "Save the Monarchs" Tour
WOW! With your help, this tour has grown beyond my wildest imaginations. Check out the final schedule for the "Save the Monarchs" tour:
Thurs 8/25 Vermont Woods Studios Kick Off Celebration, Vernon, VT CONFIRMED 6-7PM
Friday, 8/26 Massachusetts Horticultural Society 1:30 PM CONFIRMED
Sat, 8/27 Boston Museum of Science 11:30 AM CONFIRMED
Sunday, 8/28 Harvard Arnold Arboretum 1:00 PM CONFIRMED
Monday, 8/29 Boston Esplanade CONFIRMATION IN PROGRESS
Tuesday 8/30 ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center 3PM CONFIRMED
Wed 8/31 Marsh Botanical Garden at Yale University 4PM CONFIRMED
Thursday 9/1 Audubon Greenwich 6:30 PM CONFIRMED
Friday, 9/2 Philadelphia Zoo 1PM CONFIRMED
Saturday, 9/3 Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History 2PM CANCELLED