One year after the Super Bowl season was marred by a ban on Mexican avocado shipments, another threat emerged: An environmental complaint that avocado growers are destroying forests that provide critical habitat for monarch butterflies and other creatures.
The complaint, filed with the trilateral Commission for Environmental Cooperation, part of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade accord, accuses the Mexican government of failing to enforce its own laws on deforestation, water conservation, and land use.
Avocado orchards grow at about the same altitude and climate conditions as the pine and fir forests in Michoacan, where migrating butterflies gather each year. Growers often cut down the virgin forest to plant avocados for U.S. consumers. The butterflies, because they winter at a higher altitude, are not directly threatened, but the forests around their mountaintop reserves are.
Julio Santoyo is part of a group of environmentalists in the town of Villa Madero, Michoacan where activists have suffered for years from kidnappings and threats from illegal logging gangs that clear land for unauthorized avocado orchards. The orchards require much more water than the native pines.
Santoyo said he doesn’t know who filed the complaint, but he supports it.