The past three months were marked by the dry season in the Sierra Gorda: the winter rains cease and do not return until the summer. Forest fires of varying intensity have been constant in the region and they affected various areas.
One fire in particular put at risk Las Arenitas reserve that protects 800 hectares of lowland oak forests and is quite rich in tropical tree species. It is home to margays, great curassows, pacas and jaguars. The fire was particularly virulent and in one of the areas affected tree crowns, leaving the forest reduced to ashes. Fortunately, rapid intervention of our park rangers, as well as assistance from additional workers were able to slow down the advance of the fire and clean the litter off the access paths.
To complement surveillance, we visited the Mesa Colorada reserve and on horseback completed the circuit to the Joya Verde reserve, the largest protected area that we administer. This reserve is particularly untamed, with no human presence. During the visit, we were able to observe 14 fresh puma’s scrapes, an extraordinary number. They were accompanied by tracks and scent marks, which confirmed the value of the reserve as a biodiversity refuge, in particular for felines such as pumas (Puma concolor), jaguars (Panthera onca), ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), and margays (Leopardus wiedii) that live there. We were also able to spot a young fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper) resting on the path. While known to be aggressive, this venomous snake can actually be kind and patient. However, it is frequently attacked and sacrificed by humans. At no point did the snake attempt to attack us and we were able to pass by simply by circling it.
We also visited Hierbabuena, Joya del Hielo, and Canyon del Fresno reserves, as well as the Cueva del Tigre. Thankfully, we were not able to find evidence of logging activities in any of them. Furthermore, we took advantage of the visit to Joya del Hielo to take additional photos of the Magnolia pedrazae’s flower that was needed for the publication in the Dr. José Antonio Vázquez’s next book, which will explore the magnolias of Mexico.
After our search for an appropriate property, we proposed to the World Land Trust to finance acquisition of land that would enable us to expand the south-west end of the Cerro Prieto reserve. The area covers 200 hectares and is of particular value since it covers an almost 600-meter altitudinal gradient of temperate forests, meaning that it would reach the third highest summit east of the Sierra Gorda (2,650 meters). With exception of the property in the middle, the reserve would border on the Cerro del Cedral reserve, which is part of the Cerro Prieto reserve. Its white cedar forests are in good condition and are no longer endangered by clandestine logging that was degrading them. Eventually, we hope to join both properties.
Immediately outside the property limits of the Cerro Prieto, clandestine logging continues to affect cedars and pines and has severe environmental impact while providing minimal economic return. Therefore, we hope to share the good news regarding the expansion of the reserve in the next quarter.
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