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Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (Mexico) (N 1290)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2008
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1290/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1290/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
January 2011: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Illegal logging
- Tourism pressures associated with growth in visitor numbers and heavy concentration in specific areas
- Agricultural encroachment
- Forest fires (issue resolved)
- Decline in the overwintering population of Monarch butterflies in the property
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1290/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017
On 23 June 2016, the State Party provided a response to a letter from the World Heritage Centre regarding information about plans for reopening of a copper mine in the vicinity of the property, confirming the following:
- The mine is located within the buffer zone of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR); however its operation was suspended in 1990;
- In 2005, the company Industrial Minera México presented an Environmental Impact Statement for exploration, extraction and processing of minerals in the area (Project Angangueo) which was approved by the General Directorate of Environmental Impact and Risk (DGIRA) on conditions that the project would need to receive authorization for land use change;
- In 2014, a request for land use change on 6.96 ha of forest area was submitted by the company to the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales - SEMARNAT) and was forwarded to the National Commission for the Protection of Natural Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas - CONANP) for their technical evaluation. CONANP concluded that the proposal was incompatible with the conservation objectives of the MBBR and therefore, SEMARNAT did not authorize the request for land use change. However, a new request can be submitted by the company. In February 2016, a meeting was held between the company and different authorities to “streamline procedures to begin construction and operation of mining exploitation in Angangueo within the MBBR”;
- A Special Group was established by the Advisory Council of the biosphere reserve to assess the issue of possible mining, and consultations were held with various experts. The main conclusions were that the current project proposal lacked risk assessment and a remediation plan.
On 16 July 2016, the State Party provided additional information on illegal logging within the property stating that over the period 2009-2015, 36.10 ha within the property were degraded due to illegal logging; however, illegal activities have been decreasing since 2008 thanks to surveillance activities undertaken with support from local communities. Restoration activities are underway in the area illegally logged in 2015.
On 1 February 2017, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1290/documents/, providing the following information:
- Illegal logging in 2015-2016 decreased within the property from 19.90 ha in 2014-2015 to 11.92 ha. Information is also provided about forest fire prevention and management and levels of legal timber extraction in the buffer zone of the biosphere reserve, as well as on patrolling and law enforcement activities. Since August 2016, the newly created Gendarmería Ambiental is present in the property and has been acting to combat illegal activities;
- The Trinational Working Group, established by Canada, Mexico and the United States of America (USA) in 2014, developed short- and long-term targets and activities for preservation of the migration of the Monarch butterfly;
- During the 2015-2016 overwintering season, the colonies of the Monarch butterfly occupied 2.91 ha within the MBBR, which represented a 255% increase compared to December 2014 (1.13 ha). Further 1.10 ha occupied by overwintering colonies outside of the property.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The detailed information provided by the State Party regarding various activities at the national level, as well as trinational efforts by Canada, Mexico and the USA to preserve the Monarch butterfly migration is welcomed. The measures undertaken by the State Party to combat illegal logging within the property appear to have resulted in a decrease in illegal activities in recent years. However, an incident occurred in 2015 when 10 ha were illegally logged within the property, demonstrating that it remains vulnerable. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to continue and strengthen its efforts.
The information that the reopening of a copper mine in the buffer zone of the MBBR and in its vicinity continues to be discussed raises serious concerns, particularly given that CONANP had concluded that the project would be incompatible with the conservation objectives of the biosphere reserve. If the company decides to present a modified project, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to develop an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project with specific assessment of potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.
Finally, the monitoring data showing an increase in the area used by overwintering colonies within the MBBR in 2015-2016 compared to extremely low figures in the previous two seasons is encouraging. However, these figures are still low and it is unclear if the trend can be sustained given that the property remains vulnerable to illegal logging and is currently also threatened by plans to reopen the copper mine in its vicinity. Given the serious stresses affecting the Monarch butterfly across its habitat and migratory range, including climate change, it is extremely important to minimize all current and potential threats to the colonies within their overwintering areas within the property. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite an IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to evaluate current and potential threats to its OUV and to assess whether the overwintering areas of the Monarch butterfly are sufficiently protected within the property, taking into account the recent monitoring data and the reported location of overwintering colonies.
Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.16
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.31, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
- Welcomes the trinational efforts undertaken by the States Parties of Canada, Mexico and the United States of America to preserve the Monarch butterfly migration, including establishment of the Trinational Working Group and encourages them to continue their efforts;
- Also welcomes the significant measures undertaken by the State Party to combat illegal logging and to restore the previously affected areas, but notes with concern that the property remains vulnerable to this threat and requests the State Party to strengthen its efforts in this regard;
- Notes with utmost concern that plans for reopening a copper mine in the vicinity of the property continue to be discussed, despite the conclusion of the National Commission for the Protection of Natural Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas - CONANP) that the project would be incompatible with the conservation objectives of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, and also requests the State Party to ensure rigorously that any mining in the vicinity of the property will not be permitted if it has the potential to negatively impact the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
- Further requests the State Party to invite an IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to evaluate current and potential threats posed to its OUV by illegal logging and the proposed mining project, and to assess its overall state of conservation and the protection of the Monarch butterfly overwintering areas located both within the property and in its vicinity;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.