Monarch butterflies are treasured for their delicate beauty and hard work as pollinators. The fact that their annual journey from their southern home in Mexico and back again takes them thousands of miles and as many as six or more generations to accomplish makes them seem even more magical.

But, decades of deforestation threaten to irreparably damage the butterfly’s migratory habitat in the Sierra Madre Mountains in the state of Michoacán. Starting in 2006, American Forests began working with the nonprofit La Cruz Habitat Protection Project, Forests for Monarchs, to restore their habitat as well as provide local jobs, protect watersheds and encourage responsible lumber industry practices. Together, American Forests and Forests for Monarchs have planted more than 1 million trees, as well as trained local communities to manage these forests and provided environmental education in schools.

Monarchs in oyamel fir forests

After journeying thousands of miles, a monarch’s migration ends in an extraordinary spectacle in Mexico’s oyamel fir forests.

The current number of monarchs is hard to calculate. Just 25 years ago, the population stood at nearly a billion. Even with habitat protection, scientists say as few as 33 million are left now. The causes are many, including global warming and the use of deadly herbicides used widely in the U.S. for controlling roadside vegetation and in a variety of genetically modified crops like corn, soybeans and cotton. The sprays also kill milkweed, essential to the survival of the young monarchs, which are not just beautiful but also critical pollinators.

These days, people from all over the world flock to see the monarchs arrive at their migratory habitat in late autumn. American Forests work to protect the breeding ground of the monarchs has been one key to the survival of the species.

American Forests is working to restore forests that are critical habitat to threatened and endangered species such as the monarch butterfly.