Gary: We are being hosted by Bonnie McKinney, Wildlife Coordinator of the El Carmen Land and Conservation Co. LLC, and her partner Bill Pat not far from La Linda Coahuila, just east of Big Bend National Park. Bonnie reminds us that this private conservation reserve is the connecting link in an ecological corridor which joins the Sky Islands of the northern Chihuahuan Desert with the Sierra Madre of northern Mexico. But Bonnie also reminds us that this migratory corridor has been used by humans (for upwards of 8000 years), as well as by monarch butterflies, black bears, sandhill cranes and many Neotropical birds. In fact, Bonnie may have discovered the most underappreciated monarch corridor between the U.S. and Mexico, from Black Gap and ECLCC’s Adams Ranch, southward to Nacimiento, Musquiz and to the Sierra Madre Oriental, perhaps near Monterrey or other Chihuahuan Desert cities.
Kristy: So recent immigrants are following an ancient migratory corridor that has been used by human cultures and wildlife species for millennia?
Gary: Yes, and it gets even better. We know that the now-famous “Dreamers” or DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) candidates for U.S. Citizenship have chosen monarch butterflies as their icon as part of their deme? To them, it signifies the quest for safe passage between the U.S. and Mexico for all migrants.
Kristy: Indeed, and we saw many butterfly/mariposa images embroidered into the handicrafts displayed yesterday in Boquillas del Carmen, Coahuila. Handmade bags, table coverings, and jewelry. The people here really identify their own plight with that of migratory butterflies and embrace the symbolism. We have also seen “No Walls” embroidered onto the many handicrafts, on handmade posters, and signs along the borderlands. Like butterflies, who travel and cross borders, so too must people be able to cross to provide for their families, make homes, and contribute to our society.
Gary: Yes. And one reason why I’m here in the Big Bend region these few days: to promote the planting of milkweeds and other wildflowers in pollinator gardens and restored monarch habitats to offer them “sanctuary” along their peril-ridden routes from the overwintering grounds in the states of Michoacan and Mexico. And to pray for safe passage for other imperiled migrants as well.
Kristy: And our hostess Bonnie has been honored as a Monarch Wrangler by former First Lady Laura Bush’s Texas By Nature Initiative for helping monarchs and other borderlands pollinators thrive
Gary: At the same time, our Mexican colleagues in the Chihuahuan Desert have made great strides doing similar work south of the border through the Programa Correo Real of ProFauna in Northeast Mexico.
Sadly, as we are working on this post, I have just been notified that Lincoln Brower, one of the greatest monarch scientists and proponents of binational wildlife conservation who has ever lived, died this week at his home in Virginia after extended illness.
May his soul join the many monarchs in the boughs of sacred firs high in the mountains of Mexico.
Written by Gary Nabhan and Kristy Nabhan-Warren