Jose Luis Alvarez: A Man On A Mission
Jose Luis Alvarez founded the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program, a non-profit dedicated to reforesting Monarch Butterfly habitat in Mexico.
You landed on the Vermont Furniture Blog and you may be wondering why it starts with an article about butterflies. My previous post may help: Top 4 Reasons Why a Vermont Furniture Store Wants to Save the Monarchs.
Last week I visited Michoacan, Mexico, the winter home to Vermont's big, beautiful orange and black Monarch butterfly. As a wood furniture company we at Vermont Woods Studios wanted to support a reforestation project that would help protect the endangered butterfly's habitat. I did quite a bit of research, trying to understand who was leading area environmental efforts and then I traveled to Mexico to see if we could help them.
This is the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacan, Mexico. Only the trees at the very top of the mountain are still left. The rest have been illegally logged and continue to disappear at an alarming rate. Jose Luis Alvarez is replanting.
La Cruz Habitat Protection Program LCHPP
The person I kept coming back to in my research was Jose Luis Alvarez, a tree nurseryman who founded the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program LCHPP. He has been actively reforesting Monarch butterfly habitat's for over 20 years. In addition to partnering with local people to plant over 6 million trees in the Monarch's over-wintering habitat, Jose Luis has been working with researchers, scientists, photographers & videographers from all over the world in an effort to raise awareness about the butterfly's plight. Mr. Alvarez's work has been written about in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal & The New York Times. He's been an advisor and guide to producers of numerous documentary films by the BBC, National Geographic, the Canadian Broadcasting Channel and others.
That's me, planting evergreen trees and learning how to nurture the seedlings at Hacienda La Cruz. This is Step 1 in the reforestation process that begins at La Cruz Habitat Protection Program LCHPP.
Spirit of Butterflies Tour
I contacted Mr. Alvarez and signed up for his Spirit of Butterflies tour. The educational tour begins at Jose Luis' Hacienda La Cruz, a 400 year old estate near Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico. There guests are able to enjoy the historic plantation and see the initial steps of the reforestation effort. Hundreds of thousands of seedlings are planted and nurtured here for subsequent transplant in the butterfly's over-wintering habitat.
My son Riley and I enjoyed staying at Hacienda La Cruz, which is filled with old world history and charm. The food was delicious too!
Visiting the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries
The Mexican government has designated several "sanctuaries" where the butterflies over-winter. The largest sanctuary is El Rosario. Below I'm standing at the entrance with Jose Luis Alvarez. The picture was taken just a couple days before a freak snow storm dropped up to a foot of snow and ice on the butterfly habitat. It will be a couple weeks before we know what percent of the Monarchs are able to survive the storm. Keep your fingers crossed! They are amazingly resilient animals.
This photo was taken at the top of the mountain where the Monarchs congregate. The branches on these oyamel trees are weighted down with bulbous clumps of butterflies huddling together. Sometimes they pack themselves in so densely that their weight actually snaps the branch off!
Here's a close-up of the Monarchs on an oyamel tree branch.
Interested to Learn More?
If you love nature and animals, you might want to consider a trip to Mexico to witness first hand, this most complex migration of any species know to man. Here are a few places to start your research:Facebook or through the comments section below. You can also check out our other blogs about Monarch butterflies here. Thanks for reading!
"Defending the Monarch" article by Stan Sesser on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 19, 2008.
New York Times by Carol Kaesuk Yoon, In Forest Debris, the Odor of Dead Monarchs on February 26, 2002
Photos of Hacienda LaCruz by Kim Ronemus http://www.kimronemusdesign.com/joseappleseed/