There is a human facet to the natural landscape: that of hundreds of people that benefit from the environmental service payments and donations by people and companies that want to support biodiversity conservation.
Marcelina and Hermilo are two outstanding examples of the human side that live within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and whose way of living has changed in the last years thanks to the program to recuperate the understory of old standing oak forest.
Marcelina (54 years old, owner of the property known as "La Parada Cerro", La Esperanza, Jalpan de Serra, 100 hectares) is the proud owner of one of the old oak forests in the Sierra Gorda. Now a widow, she lives with her two daughters, her grandchildren and her mother.
When her husband was alive, they made a living rearing livestock. If a family member fell ill, they would sell calves to cover the costs of care.
However the family entered into a crisis when Marcelina’s husband migrated to the United States and died soon afterwards. She tried to continue with the livestock, but it was not possible.
With less rainfall there was less food available for the animals, which fell ill more frequently, and there was no money to pay for a vet. Other times there were very few buyers, or they wanted to pay a very low price for the cattle. Marcelina tried to create more enclosures for her livestock, so she deforested more of the forest and destroyed areas with a high biological value.
Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda offered her payments for environmental services in exchange for her taking out the livestock so that the forest could recuperate. In this way, Marcelina decided to dedicate part of her land for cattle and dedicate 100 hectares as a private reserve. Now her forest is much improved. Where the livestock would trample before, the forest is now so dense that it is difficult to walk through.
Marcelina feels calm seeing the improvements in her land and for having had the opportunity to create a living thanks to its protection. “I am very happy to see my land conserved and with many animals in the countryside, but I also need continuing economic support, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it alone,” she states.
Hermilo (76 years old, “Hoya la Ciénaga", Lagunita San Diego, Landa de Matamoros, 100 hectares) is a forest proprietor and lives with his wife, Nicanora Servin. Before being part of the environmental services payment program, he and his family lived from agriculture, livestock; they processed the local agave lechuguilla and made natural rope from the fibers.
But with the increase in the use of plastic, the demand for these artisanal products fell and the family ended up in poverty.
After a while, when the road was built to their isolated community, they began to sell timber. However, in recent years the trees were affected by the bark beetle infestations. “Selling the infested wood was not a good business; the only ones who can make a living are those that mark out the trees to be cut,” says Hermilo.
When the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve was created, they began to receive support for caring for the forest. Now, for protecting the forests they receive an income which they live from. The state government and other donors, through the Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda, support Hermilo’s family and other rural landowners in exchange for not logging the old standing forest and excluding their livestock, and withdrawing any other agricultural activities from the forest.
“We know that in the forest there is life and, if we want water and cool weather, clean air and little animals in the forest, we have to care for our forest. The tree is the man’s best friend” he says.
Twenty six days after having installed three camera traps in Grupo Ecológico’s Private Reserve Number 1 we went to collect them to see what they had captured. And we were very pleased with the results.
A puma, a Temazate deer and a collared peccary – the wild boar species native to this area of Mexico – appeared in the recordings both in pictures and videos.
For Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, these are the clearest and indisputable signs that conservation is achieved by eliminating human influence from wild places. Only then will wildlife be able to re-colonize what people took from them: their home.
You can see the video here.
These last three months we proceeded to identify potential properties for purchase. Due to the ilegal logging which has been unstoppable in the immediate vicinity of the reserve known as Cerro Prieto-Cerro la Luz, we decided to approach World Land Trust, our British partner, to acquire the property of Mr. Isidro Ruiz Servin, with a surface area of 65 hectares and thereby amplify the reserve to protect it from the logging.
All of the reserves have continued to benefit from the constant presence of the park guardians (Leonel Espino, Abel Resendiz, Emiliano Cardenas, Taurino Castillo) and their supervisor Miguel Flores and occassionally Roberto Pedraza. In the reserves that have been purchased for strict protection, there is no ilegal logging or other extraction. We observed a minimal presence of cattle in two of them (Canon del Fresno and Cerro Prieto-Cerro La Luz); in the first for a fence that has since been repaired and in the second a lack of fencing. Given a fence would be a major expense and would have a negative impact on the forest, we visited the neighboring properties to give an ultimatum and were accompanied by the local authorities. If the cattle are encountered again, we will round them up and hold them and involve the authorities formally.
The following reserves in our care have had maintenance to trails and additional handiwork: Arenitas, San Francisco, La Tinaja, Canon del Fresno, Tinaja del Zapote, Hoya Verde, Mesa Colorada, Socabon and El Naranjito, and the buffer zones that protect them, accounting for a total of 46.1 kilometers. The fence maintenance in the reserves Canon del Fresno and la Hoya del Hielo, in addition to the major reparation to the perimeter fence of the reserve Mesa Colorada, including installing fence posts of steel which was financed in part by the donation received here in Global Giving to protect vital habitat.
And we had the enormous pleasure to obtain images in the camera traps of puma and jaguar, which demonstrates the effectiveness of the conservation activities within these private reserves within the greater Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. The images come from the reserves La Tinaja and Las Arenitas.
Wildlife activity kept up in our camera-traps, as again, ranger Leonel Espino photographed two jaguars in the Arenitas and Tinaja reserves, where old growth oak forests offer heaven to a variety of wildlife.
We are thrilled to announce the discovery of three new Magnolia species, two of them in the Hoya del Hielo reserves, and the other species in the Hoya Verde reserve. Dr. Antonio Vázquez, from the Universidad de Guadalajara is in charge of their description, already shared some info and the new species are dedicated to: Magnolia rzedowskyana, to Dr. Jerzy Rzedowsky, Mexico´s main botanist, Magnolia sierragordae, to this very special mountains, and the third I had the truly enormous honour to be named after my surname, Magnolia pedrazae, as Dr. Vázquez first realized they were new species thanks to photos I shot years ago and also because our work to protect local biodiversity.
We covered the surveillance of the rest of the reserves by the activities of other rangers, their supervisor and myself, without encountering any illegal activities. But just outside the reserves the ongoing logging, so they are showing how effective this conservation scheme is and this is why we must continue.
It is an honour to share the announcement that our Director, Martha "Pati" Ruiz Corzo has been recognized today with the Wangari Maathai Prize by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. I am attaching the official press release for your information.
"Martha’s extraordinary commitment to preserving the biodiversity of her land and to lifting rural communities out of poverty makes her a deserving winner of the Wangari Maathai Award,” said Eduardo Rojas Briales, FAO Assistant Director-General, Forestry, and Chair of the CPF. “By recognizing the implications of asking subsistence farmers to plant trees on land they had previously used to eke out a living, and putting into place successful mechanisms to offset that lost income, Martha and her organization have established a solid model that can be replicated elsewhere.”
Thalia Davidoff (Communications Officer)
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.
Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.Start a Fundraiser