On 9 February 2009 the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property. The report responds to the decisions of the World Heritage Committee (32 COM 8B.17) and provides an overview of ongoing conservation activities, including those aimed at halting illegal logging, promoting sustainable tourism and developing alternative livelihoods for local communities. A second report was received by the World Heritage Centre on 27 March 2010, providing further details.
a) Illegal logging
The State Party considers that illegal logging, although present within the property, is decreasing and that effective strategies are being implemented to counter this threat. Several government agencies coordinate anti-logging activities within the property. The budget for these activities was approximately USD 238,000 in 2008, and the State Party estimates that it could reach USD 2 million per year in 2009. Several timber control posts have been operational since 2004, anti-logging patrols are undertaken within the property, transport to and from the property is regulated, timber storage sites and timber mills are controlled, and two seizures of illegal timber took place during the course of 2008.
Community surveillance of illegal logging activities and forest fires supports the conservation and protection of the core and buffer zones of the property. These activities are led by local Environmental Surveillance Committees and covered 21,255 ha in 2008, including 4,681 ha within the core zone of the property. The State Party reports that the Mexican Fund for Nature Conservation also provided MXP 1,615,595 (approximately USD 129,092 ) for the implementation of two additional Participatory Surveillance Committees during 2009-2010. Additional forest management issues are discussed, including reforestation (13,191 ha had undergone reforestation as of 2008, representing approximately 23% of the property), pest control treatments, management of a disease causing the ‘drying out’ of trees, and the impacts of strong storms that occurred in October 2008.
The State Party also recalls that the Monarch Fund has implemented a landowner compensation scheme for the core zones of the property. The Fund compensated landowners that had active timber harvesting permits and no longer made use of them. Between 2000 and 2008, direct payments were made to 32 landowners, representing MXP 22,757,000 million (approximately USD 1.82 million). Moreover, between 2003 and 2008, the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) provided payment for hydrological environmental services of MXP 3,898,857 (approximately USD 311,900) to local communities, which were linked to maintenance of forest cover.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the State Party has attributed a considerable budget to anti-logging activities, and commends the agencies involved for taking a participatory approach to surveillance. They further note that several additional sources of funding directly and indirectly contribute to activities aimed at maintaining forest cover within the property. IUCN recalls that at the time of inscription in 2008, illegal logging was the main direct threat to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and at sufficient levels that IUCN recommended deferral of the inscription. Despite the efforts of the agencies and local communities involved, 479 ha were logged between 2003 and 2005. While the State Party considers that illegal logging is decreasing, it is difficult to judge this trend as no data is provided on the number of hectares illegally logged between 2005 and 2008 in previous official reports. IUCN notes that during this time it has received a range of reports of observed illegal logging in the property. As the State Party report acknowledges that illegal logging is still taking place, whilst the trend may be decreasing, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that this issue clearly remains a critical threat to the property.
b) Tourism impacts and community development
The State Party reports that MXP 29 million (approximately USD 2,316,180) is being invested in creating and strengthening ecotourism and community development projects, with the support of the Program on Conservation for Sustainable Development (Programa de Conservación para el Desarrollo Sostenible - PROCODES), the Temporary Employment Program (Programe para el Empleo Temporal - PET), and other investors. A Programme of Public Use and a Tourism Programme for Sustainable Development are currently active within the property. The first programme covers control and mitigation of negative tourism impacts, and the second programme aims to provide alternative livelihoods to local communities. The State Party indicates that it is attempting to minimise some of the negative impacts of tourism infrastructure by using local materials, applying bioclimatic architectural techniques and developing environmentally-friendly waste water management methods and renewable electricity. The remodelling of several ecotourism centres, which are the entry point to the property, and a number of additional public works within the property and along access roads are also being undertaken.
IUCN recalls that at the time of inscription in 2008, much of the tourism infrastructure detracted in a major way from the visual integrity of the sites visited by tourists. The Committee requested, in Decision 32 COM 8B.17, that the State Party develop and implement, in the context of the 2007 Agreement of Collaboration between the Tourisms Secretariat (SECTUR) and the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) on the Development of Nature-based Tourism, a detailed plan for sustainable use of the property and an effective benefit sharing mechanism for local communities as an incentive to enhance their support for its conservation. While the World Heritage Centre and IUCN commend the State Party for securing considerable funding for creating and strengthening ecotourism and community development projects, they note that it is unclear whether an effective benefit-sharing mechanism is being developed. They request the State Party to submit the above tourism plans to the World Heritage Centre for review.
In addition to the above, the State Party reports that the Government of Mexico, Canada and the USA have jointly developed the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (NAMCP), which aims to protect and manage Monarch Butterfly breeding habitats in North America, and their over-wintering sites in Mexico. The State Party reports that during October 2008 a tri-national workshop was held to discuss Monarch Butterfly monitoring, which recommended that joint monitoring protocols be developed. The State Party also notes that the Management Programme, which has been in place since 2001, will be revised during 2010 and a new Programme instated by the end of 2011 for the long-term preservation of the Monarch Butterfly over-wintering sites. Moreover, MXP 8,671,356 (approximately USD 692,618), provided by the Mexican Fund for Nature and Movimiento Azteca, is currently being invested in 16 projects relating to community development, sustainable resource management, surveillance and restoration.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN commend the State Party for securing new investment in ecotourism and community development. However, as no data is provided on the number of hectares affected by illegal logging since 2005, it is unclear how effective anti-logging activities have been to date, and significant concerns remain in this regard. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the World Heritage Committee (Decision 32 COM 8B.17) requested a joint monitoring mission to the property prior to the 34th session in 2010 to consider the state of conservation of the property. This mission has been rescheduled due to logistical difficulties and will take place during the second half of 2010. The focus of this mission will be to determine the level of illegal logging ongoing within the property and the level of benefits sharing from visitation activities taking place within communities hosting the property.