| Sep 8, 2017
In Defense of the Territory and Biodiversity
Press Conference in the Senate of the Republic
With the arrival of the rain, the danger of forest fires has been diminished and animals once again have an abundance of water.
Our rangers have maintained continuous presence in the private reserves, with the help of neighbors to do surveillance to prevent forest fires, hunting and illegal logging. El Socavón Cave where a colony of green parakeets (Aratinga holochlora) resides is within one of the private reserves and we were able to confirm the presence of at least three active nests. Roberto Pedraza Ruiz, Head of the Land Conservation Program and our wildlife photographer planned to spend a full day photographing them in early July. However, he retired after only two hours since the chicks were in the nests and their parents did not seem to be feeding them in the same way as usual. Yet, he was able to obtain good photographs and an HD video of them.
During a surveillance tour of the Joya del Hielo private reserve, we entered an previously unknown area and found a very old and corpulent specimen of white cedar (Cupressus lusitanica). We were also able to see the abundant regeneration and more specimens of the two species of Magnolia (Magnolia rzedowskiana and M. pedrazae) that are new to science and whose description was made based on the type of specimens that grow in our reserve.
We also purchased the property with the help of the World Land Trust that covers 200 hectares and is part of the third highest summit located in the eastern extension of the Sierra Gorda (2,650 MASL) in Queretaro State.
During the past three months, the activity that consumed the most time was defending the forests located in the municipality of Xilitla, San Luis Potosí that are adjacent to one of our private reserves, Cerro Prieto and therefore to the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. There the state delegation of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) authorized a Forest Management Program that plans to log 2,000 hectares of mostly primary cloud and temperate forests.
This area is known for its authenticity and extraordinary biodiversity. Decades of brutal deforestation have left little of what its forests used to be. However, in the heights of its mountain range one can still find a magnificent forest that extends over several ‘ejidos’. Mexico’s cloud forests cover less than 1% of the country’s surface area and are estimated to house 12% of the country’s flora, with about 30% of species being endemic. As we know, these forests are home to Jaguars and Margays, and their rich biodiversity always surprises us.
The document is poor in its content, has weak technical component, and avoids mentioning and minimizes the presence of significant number of flora and fauna species with the status of endemic and protected according to the national endangered species list listed in the NOM ECOL 059 SEMARNAT 2010. The threat demanded we defend this forest sanctuary. First, we sent letters with data and technical information to the President of the Republic and the Delegate of SEMARNAT in San Luis Potosí State who authorized the process, requesting the revocation to the logging authorization. After the Delegate refused to revoke the permit, we contacted the media and the local society, and actively defend these forests.
Invited by the Senator Marcela Torres, invaluable ally of the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda I.A.P., Roberto Pedraza Ruiz participated in a press conference in the Senate of the Republic to denounce the SEMARNAT Delegation’s logging authorization plagued with irregularities. Pedraza Ruiz was accompanied by Senators Sonia Mendoza Diaz, Silvia Garza Galván, President of the Climate Change Commission, and Jesús Santana. Their support made the SEMARNAT reconsider their authorization.
The response from the media and society was excellent: more than 25 articles and interviews in local, regional, and national media were published, including a petition on Change.org. In less than two weeks SEMARNAT temporarily suspended the authorization and announced that it would review the process to determine irregularities and missing elements. We know that this is a partial triumph and we are ready to resume our fight if the logging authorization is reactivated. However, for now we managed to expose the officials and impede the logging operation.
As for the region’s forests, Roberto Pedraza Ruiz was fortunate enough to find and photograph a salamander species that was independently identified by three experts as Big-footed Salamander (Chiropterotriton magnipes), a species that is micro-endemic and is, according to the IUCN’s Red List, “Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct).” This was a very fortunate finding since it helped us to defend the forests, emphasizing the value of the biodiversity that they house. Furthermore, we are certain that the species is present in the forests of the Cerro Prieto reserve.
Below you can find links to some of the articles that were published and the letter sent to the Delegate of SEMARNAT in which we request the revocation of the logging permit:
The place where we found the ancient cedar