Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve

Article excerpt

The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (SGBR), in Queretaro State, Mexico, is home to 10 of Mexico's 11 ecosystems, boasting six feline species, black bears, and more than 30 percent of the bird species in the country. The reserve, roughly the size of Rhode Island, holds some of Central Mexico's most breathtaking scenery--vertical caves, lush valleys, and rugged mountains. But the SGBR is also home to people in extreme poverty; the topographic and economic conditions make for a harsh existence. Finding the balance between protecting the region's natural resources and promoting economic well-being is a complex task.

Created in 1997, the Reserve was the result of nearly 250 regional development meetings with local residents. Community response overwhelmingly supported federal designation of the area as a biosphere reserve, the highest-conservation-priority category of the parks system in Mexico.

Protecting the environment continues to be a high priority for residents.

Sierra Gorda Ecotours wants to be part of the solution. The Sierra Gorda Ecotours company is the initiative of Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda, which is working with the Biosphere Reserve office to establish ecologically feasible means of generating employment for the local population and to diminish the outpouring of emigrants to the US. A total of 100,000 people live in 700 rural communities, in which the average annual income is approximately $2,500.

Steering the region towards sustainability requires the cooperation of Grupo Ecologico staff and the Biosphere Reserve officers, led by long-time grassroots activist and Biosphere Director Martha Ruiz Corzo, known to locals as "Maestra Pati." Corzo and her staff review environmental impact reports, organize local committees, build infrastructure, and enforce management rules and regulations. …

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