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Jun 3, 2020

Protecting Wild Cat Habitat with Footage from our Wildlife Cameras!

At this latitude, spring is the worst and most difficult time of year as it is the dry season.  Climate change effects are evident, like higher than average temperatures, bringing with them a severe delay in rains and consequently a higher risk of forest fires.  A year ago, under similar conditions, there was a large fire in Valle Verde that for almost a month was unstoppable.  Springtime for us can be a scary time. 

For that reason, GESG has been managing and leading inter-institutional work and coordination with all three levels of government so that we are much better prepared than we were last year.  Through a partnership with World Land Trust, for the first time, we have our own brigade to help prevent and fight forest fires.  They are based in Valle Verde and made up of 10 people who are properly-equipped.  They´re all from the region and have previous experience in fire management.  They´ve been tasked with clearing trails and making fire breaks that would help in the case that they should be necessary.  They have repaired an observation tower which gives us an excellent lookout point to monitor much of the area, in addition, they have patrol routes and interact regularly with other property owners in the area.  The only pending item is a course in fire management given by CONAFOR, which has been delayed due to the health contingency of COVID-19.

This brigade can be reinforced, if necessary, with 7 additional members from our team at GESG.   This year, they´ve participated in putting out two fires to date (La Cercada and Los Galvanes Hill).  In addition, in the region, we can count on the Federal Government which has 3 brigades (CONANP, CONAFOR) and the State Government of Queretaro (SEDEA) and the Directorates of Civil Protection of City Councils and Honorable Volunteer Fire Brigades in the region and the state.  Even though the risk is always latent, we are without a doubt better prepared to combat fires in the region and better able to protect the reserves. 

On the other hand, we had an extraordinary capture on our wildlife camera, for the third time we caught a black bear on tape.  This is only the third such registry of this endangered species in Central Mexico in the last 3 years.  In footage from the same camera, we also saw a jaguar and puma.  For there to be three predators in the same area coexisting, speaks to the health of the forests in this zone.  It is an honor for us to share with you this event:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFkQAsysuvg&feature=youtu.beY&fbclid=IwAR39LS1qggy89CJ-3C_bptRrtc8of4fUgwylW7UMAH8romfy5V_6muHwt68

 

Apart from that, our park rangers have had a presence in all of the reserves with their rounds and reinforcing fences.  We´re in the process of buying another property to add to the Cerro Prieto reserve an additional 100 hectares, with the support of World Land Trust.  WLT partnered with the famous Finnish band, Nightwish, to show their support for biodiversity conservation in the Sierra Gorda mountains through this spectacular video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VshpPBBehxE

Links:

Apr 24, 2020

Support Young Environmental Leaders in Mexico

GRUPO ECOLÓGICO SIERRA GORDA

COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAM

 

The Earth Festivals

 Every year during the months of February, March, April and May with the help of docents and educational networks, The National Council for Educational Development (CONAFE) and Initial Education, a program of the Secretary of Public Education, we complete 50 Earth Festivals.

The Earth Festivals are cultural events that have a goal of rescuing and promoting the roots and traditions of the Sierra Region, and also fomenting the culture of environmental protection.  In the 2020 festivals the central theme is “Minimizing Solid Waste,” but more than anything they are a hommage of respect and love for our Mother Earth.  Educational insitutions, parents, and the general public, organize the events in their community to that end.  Elementary Schools participated in this ocassion and developed cultural programming that included participation in theatrical productions, choral performances, poetry recitals, expositions of work done in schools relevent to conservation.  The mothers also participate each year by creating demonstrations of gastronomy from the local community that they share with all the festival participants.  They showcase typical dishes from the region, highlighting natural ingredients like cactus, oak flowers and different plants and edible tubers.

Promoters of the program, in order to build awareness in the population in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, presented the play, “The Evil of Basuroso on Earth.”  They did so with the objective of teaching the audiences the appropriate management of solid wastes, inorganic trash, organic waste, and sanitary waste and above all reducing the amount of trash that we produce daily.  They also gave the students and adults posters that show graphically how to separate solid waste, and booklets with practical advice for reducing your ecological footprint.  By the same thread, students were recognized and given a chance to share their point of view about what they understood from the play and sharing the necessity for everyone to participate in the conservation of nature.

In this period we completed 26 events in different municipalities and zones of influence in and around the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.  We had 2,348 students, 40 Elementary Schools, 88 teachers, 643 plates demonstrating gatronomical heritage, 741 homemakers and community leaders and community members participate.

Thes events have an environmental impact because they encourage people to replicate activities in their communities and schools through building awareness in themes like: reducing solid waste, separating solid waste, preventing forest fires, saving water, and avoiding purchasing of throwaway products. 

Due to the spread of COVID-19 we did need to suspend activities in March and cancelled 24 Earth Festivals.

 

Testimonies:

Mónica from the community of Adjuntas de Ahuacatlan.

The Earth Festivals teach us a lot and in this instance I learned that we need to think about nature, we´re destroying it and we should take care of that little bit that is left.  Separating our trash at home, teaching our kids to participate, making sure that everyone in our houses are involved in taking care of that which is around us, and that our neighbors learn to do the same.  That way we can have clean water, clean air, healthy forests.  We hope Grupo Ecológico will keep teaching us different ways to take care of our communities. 

It´s good that you all visit us because we all learn, our children and all the families.  And I hope you keep bringing these festivals to thank nature for all of the blessings it gives us and also to share as a community.  Thank you Grupo Ecológico for visiting us. 

 

 Graciela from the community of Zoyapilca.

I only want to say that we need to put into practice all that Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, has taught us, so that we don´t continue contaminating our communities.  And that our children teach us and are an example of that which they are learning.  Together, as a community we can take care of and maintain the wellbeing of all of the nature in our community.

Thanks Grupo Ecológico for visiting us and bringing us these messages which are so helpful to us for taking care of and respecting that which surrounds us. 

 

                               

Feb 4, 2020

Wild Cat Trail Monitoring and Maintenance

Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda, Ranger Miguel F.
Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda, Ranger Miguel F.

On this occasion we want to share the experience from the last surveillance tour to one of the private reserves that we guard in this special territory that is the Sierra Gorda. Located in the great mountain range that runs east of the Sierra Gorda from south to north, it turns out to be unique for its ecosystems and species that live there.

To get there requires travelling for an hour of paved road, then a dirt road that is only passable in a 4x4 vehicle and where the driver's expertise is indispensable. Even if it's a jeep, it's easy to hit the rocks and damage the vehicle or get into one of the ditches that the rain has formed. A chainsaw is also necessary, because the wind knocks down trees and or it is not possible to be reached or one is trapped on the return if in that period an oak fell, which happened to us on one occasion. And the inseparable machete, to keep the bushes and branches trimmed and uncover the trail for future monitoring. This minimum maintenance is a recurring activity and takes up time on each tour.

After about 45 minutes, you arrive at the point where you leave the vehicle and start a long walk along a path that is used regularly by pumas and jaguars, to the shelter of old oaks and white cedars that are dripping wet from the fog that enveloped everything that morning. “The trail” is barely visible, as we just keep it open to minimize the disturbance and to deter other people from following it. In short, it is easy to get lost in that green sea, and in order to get oriented in the blurring fog, we use larger trees as a point of reference. In most visits it is the rule to find the territorial marks of pumas or jaguars on the trail, which they do with their back claws when “scratching” on the ground-litter and where they also defecate or urinate. That visit was no exception and I had the joy of finding 4 of those tracks. This speaks of how alive that great forest is, where the great predators are at ease and therefore the chain of life that sustains them remains robust and functional.

On this monitoring visit, I decided to go through the 11-kilometer perimeter fence that we built in 2007 and that since then has kept out the free-roaming cattle of neighboring properties. Trekking this very abrupt terrain, where limestone rocks dominate and are covered with moss and leaf litter, forces me to walk a bit blindly. I can´t see the often loose rocks that slide when stepped on, having to be particularly careful. A bad blow, sprain or fracture in those latitudes would be a bad experience, because one is far from any help. And worse, eventhough we wear protective gear, I am always on the alert for rattlesnakes. And fortunately, they are extremely calm and gentle beings. Keeping that fence in good condition is of the greatest importance, as trees or branches can fall and break it. A single damaged section allows the cattle to enter and destroy many years of natural regeneration. To make the point, the populations of the two species of magnolia (Magnolia rzedowskiana and M. pedrazae) that were “discovered” in this sanctuary were barely surviving before the area was fenced, and now the young magnolias are literally counted by the hundreds. It is no exaggeration to say there is a 200% increase in species when conservation is the main priority.

The micro-endemic species which were on the verge of extinction due to the illegal logging suffered in these forests for decades have slowly returned from the edge of extinction. And that is only to report on what is obvious to my eyes. Apart from the permanent presence of pumas, jaguars, margays, ocelots and endemic and endangered chivizcoyos, cryptic species such as salamanders maintain their lares in these shady forests. So each reconnaissance tour is gratifying, even if it is to start early and finish late in the day. The presence of this and other Reserves allows us to keep human greed far away and allow life to return in stronger numbers to those protected spaces, and re-wild nature.

Links:

 
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