Monarch Mexican Migration and land management

Woody Woods woody.woods at
Fri Nov 21 18:34:11 EST 2003

This isn't about leps directly, but is indirectly, at least-- I'm adding to
Alex's thoughts below, which bear on overall habitat loss.

It's interesting how differently the infrastructure of the U.S. has
developed compared with that of other countries. A few years back I heard
Norman Myers speak; he had already put forth the concept of "biological hot
spots" and the idea that human activity was outstripping the evolutionary
process in that it was reducing not only biological diversity but
within-species variation so fast that for many species it could cripple
natural selection, which acts on that variation. Myers included an anecdote
about being invited to a gathering, and borrowing a car and driving himself
there. When he arrived, his host told him that he had committed a faux pas
by driving alone, something that is frowned on in that energy-conscious
nation. How many cars do you see with more than one passenger during a
morning commute?

Afterwards, I suggested to him that while Europe's infrastructure had grown
up when people walked to work and to shopping (and many still do), the U.S.
infrastructure experienced its greatest expansion during the era of the
Model T Ford, which most families could afford. Not only the vehicles were
inexpensive-- domestic petroleum products were too. Not too long after came
suburban sprawl (yup, Alex, even between states and through toll booths!)
and shopping malls that almost no one walks to.

This trend is just about impossible to reverse in the short term. The rest
of my extended family lives in locations where there is little they can walk
to except other houses. We are lucky enough to be able to walk a mile and a
half to most shopping and three miles to a mall, which we generally do
unless there is a truckload of groceries to carry.

However, I recall staying in a household in Rouen, France, and walking two
or three minutes to shopping for virtually anything-- food, clothes,
household goods-- just about everything except cars, actually-- we shopped
for lunch fixings just before lunch, and for dinner and next morning's
breakfast in the late afternoon. The house didn't have or need a

Next time I write it WILL be about leps, honest-- though, at least
indirectly, this is.


William A. Woods Jr.
Department of Biology
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125

Lab: 617-287-6642
Fax: 617-287-6650

> From: "Grkovich, Alex" <agrkovich at>
> Reply-To: agrkovich at
> Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 12:41:06 -0500
> To: "'patfoley at'" <patfoley at>, monarch at
> Cc: LEPS-L at
> Subject: RE: Monarch Mexican Migration and land management
> All this talks about the Monarch overwintering sites are "interesting", but
> there may be an equal or perhaps an even bigger threat going on within our
> own U.S. borders, to MANY species of all animal (and plant) groups...
> I have made three visits to San Antonio, Texas in the past year, in order to
> visit a friend (which is of course a good excuse to go and collect)...and
> have been increasingly shocked at the scope of very extensive and VERY
> poorly planned "housing developments" going on there...One area where in
> particular I have watched this "progress" is on the west side of the city,
> where hundreds upon hundreds of acres of beautiful Lower Austral habitat are
> being cleared - razed, bulldozed to dust, to well below the soil, and are
> being replaced by hundreds upon hundreds of blocks of "housing
> projects"...and where this "development" has not yet taken place, all one
> sees is signs advertisement future "Green Acres" or "Sierra Acres" or
> something such...NOTHING whatsoever of the vegetation at all is being left
> behind, and the "houses" are little more than $80,000 to $125,000 paper
> shacks with a clean and pretty facade...At first, I also thought how nice
> that the outer ring around the west of the city, Rt. 1604, is being
> converted from a two lane country (sub-suburban road) to a freeway, which
> will no doubt all too soon be choked and clogged with the same levels of
> "traffic" that is now choking freeways all over our country (including in
> San Antonio itself, despite the fact that for example, I-410 has 12 lanes in
> some areas...and try getting from Boston to Portland, Maine sometime...once
> you manage to clear the "traffic", it all builds up again at the "toll
> booths")...until it was pointed out to me that the state is applying for the
> expansion of the highway to "accommodate" the perhqps hundreds of thousands
> of new residents who are apparently in many cases being imported from
> surrounding regions (i.e. states) into these virtual "ghettos". Already the
> cost in terms of social "progress" is being felt into these areas...these
> "ghettos are fast becoming drug and crime-infested...This has nothing to do
> with urban has little more to do with anything other than the
> making of a quick and cheap buck by the "developers" at the expense of the
> community, of the residents of surrounding, better-planned neighborhoods and
> area, and finally of the current and future residents of these "ghettos",
> who probably are being sucked-in to buy in these "communities...And finally
> to the natural residents - plant and animal - which have and are being
> devastated and wiped out.
> I have seen the  same "progress" going on in large scale around Orlando,
> Florida and in many other areas...and from what I understand, perhaps
> destroying what's left of the lower Rio Grande Valley is next on the agenda
> of these "carpertbaggers"?
> God forbid.
> How about some comments and some action on bringing to a halt THESE threats
> to our environment as well as to our society and to our social wealth, Pat,
> Lincoln and Chip and others involved in "saving the Monarch"...compared to
> all this I'm afraid that the Monarch may be doing quite OK...and I saw them
> active in San Antonio as well as in south Texas last weekend...
> Alex
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Patrick Foley [SMTP:patfoley at]
>> Sent: Friday, November 21, 2003 10:47 AM
>> To: monarch at
>> Cc: LEPS-L at
>> Subject: Re: Monarch Mexican Migration and land management
>> Paul,
>> So your theory about Monarch winter sites is that everything is cool in
>> Mexico, and in California we should be planting more Eucalyptus, a
>> highly flammable introduced tree.
>> Its hard to figure why your ideas are not embraced by the scientific
>> community.
>> Wouldn't it be OK to spend just a little money on land preservation and
>> scientific research? The cost here is pretty small compared to, for
>> example, bailing out ENRON CEO's or spraying DDT over all the wetlands
>> and waterways of the USA, a few of our oldies-but-goodies. And just
>> possibly, the work that Brower's team is doing will reveal more about
>> the oyamel fir forest than the assurances you make.
>> As a masters student at U Az years ago, I heard the Canadian ecologist
>> E. C. Pielou give a talk on the biogeography of brown algae. One of the
>> very junior faculty somewhat haughtily asked her why she thought this
>> research was of any scientific interest.
>> Steadily, pointedly, she made her reply, "Some of us believe that much
>> can be learned about the world by actually looking at it."
>> Patrick
>> Paul Cherubini wrote:
>>> Pat Foley wrote:
>>>> I am perfectly willing to give you credit for your observations and
>>>> insights about Monarch roosting behavior and the possibility that the
>>>> Brower group is overly committed to a simplistic model. But if your
>>>> alternative to the Brower model is to do nothing, to protect nothing,...
>>> Well, what needs to be done?  Like do we need to finance reforestation
>>> programs at the altitude where the monarchs overwinter? No, because
>>> there is practically no logging damage that needs to be repaired.
>>> Do we need to finance reforestation programs below the altitude where
>>> the monarch overwinter?  Not generally, because low altitude forests are
>>> not used by the butterflies as overwintering habitat.  However, the
>>> monarchs commonly find drinking water on the cropland immediately
>>> below the sanctuaries
>>> (obviously a benefit). In addition, nectar sources such as sunflowers
>>> commonly grow as weeds on this cropland
>>> (photo lifted from
>>> Journey North website).
>>> Do we need to finance reforestation programs to repair occassional
>> forest 
>>> fire damage? No, because the forest regenerates on it's own.
>>> Is the human population in the monarch reserve area rising rapidly?
>>> No, because as in rural areas of the USA, the young people tend to
>>> migrate to the larger cities to find better educational and employment
>>> opportunities. 
>>> Do we need to finance studies about the "appropriate land management
>>> policy for Monarch winter sites and learn more about the autecology
>>> of overwintering Monarchs?"  No, because current and past land use
>>> use practices have n proved to be compatible with monarch overwintering.
>>> Paul Cherubini
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