SOURCE: ECO-LIFE Foundation

February 26, 2007 13:52 ET

Illegal Logging Devastating Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve Prompts Non-Profit to Launch MoreThanMonarchs.org

SAN DIEGO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 26, 2007 -- As monarch butterflies begin their extraordinary migration from Mexico north to lay their eggs, illegal logging syndicates gear up to destroy the forest that serves as their winter sanctuary. The monarch's amazing 3,000-mile journey from Canada to Mexico may prove to be in vain in years to come, if action is not taken to preserve the federally protected Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, approximately 80 miles west of Mexico City in Central Mexico.

Outraged by the destruction of this critical habitat and the civil strife it is causing in the region, the San Diego-based non-profit ECO-LIFE Foundation has launched www.MoreThanMonarchs.org (www.masquemonarcas.org in Spanish). The website is a unique online communications forum created to support the efforts of indigenous communities to stop illegal logging practices in the region. MoreThanMonarchs.org provides a one-of-a-kind platform for villagers, community leaders, government officials, and other interested parties to expose key issues surrounding the devastating impact of illegal logging on the environment and local communities in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

Bill Toone, founder of the ECO-LIFE Foundation, explains, "By making this issue public and telling the real story from communities' point of view, MoreThanMonarchs.org hopes to persuade the Mexican government to enforce the existing laws set up to protect these forests. The wholesale theft of these trees from local communities can be equated to someone stealing from your long-term savings account, something most of these people can ill afford." The site leverages the communication power of the Internet directly for the communities, so there is no room for third-party interpretation or distortion of their individual perspectives.

On the site, visitors can read first-hand accounts of the effects illegal logging has on villagers' livelihoods and natural resources. The documentation of various issues through letters and a discussion board creates accountability for the Mexican government and local law enforcement. According to letters posted by indigenous community members, individuals who try to intervene and stop the logging are being threatened and coerced by armed logging syndicates. To date, the Mexican government has failed to deliver on its promises to take action against illegal logging activities.

Bruce Babbit, former United States Secretary of the Interior, Carter Roberts of World Wildlife Fund, and Lincoln Brower, internationally acclaimed conservationist, will be traveling to the region in February to investigate solutions to end the deforestation of this habitat.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Illegal Logging Report 2005-2006, results indicate that deforestation rates are now more than eight times higher than they were five years ago. Researchers found in a 28-year period study, the average size of the conserved patches of forest decreased nearly 90 percent, from 5,000 acres to 500. At the current rate of destruction, the integrity of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve may be degraded to a point where it cannot sustain the monarchs' habitat beyond 20 to 50 years from now. "If we act now to enforce existing laws protecting the reserve, there is still a chance to salvage this habitat from irreparable damage," Toone says.

About ECO-LIFE Foundation

ECO-LIFE is an international, non-profit conservation organization committed to protecting nature and natural resources while improving quality of life for people who depend upon those resources. The non-profit was founded by Bill Toone, a conservation biologist with more than 25 years of experience in domestic and international conservation. Learn more by visiting www.MoreThanMonarchs.org and http://www.ecolifefoundation.org

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