Sep 23, 2021

A Blissfully Rainy 2021

Lush Cloud forest due to the abundant rains
Lush Cloud forest due to the abundant rains

During this quarter we maintained protection for the reserves through regular presence of our park rangers, without any problems.  They did maintenance on the fences and put in steel posts to prevent the entrance of four-wheelers into one of the reserves.

The firefighting brigade that is supported by World Land Trust and donors from GlobalGiving, worked this year from March 1st to June 26th.  They kept someone stationed in the observation tower in Valle Verde, as a first line of defense.  As well as maintaining the 68.8 kilometers of trails and firebreaks which they worked on last year and adding an additional 10.2 km for a total of 78 kilometers of trails and firebreaks in the service of protecting the reserves. 

Fortunately, with the rains arrived in mid-May and the fire season was cut short.  The damage was less than in other years, even though the danger was present on hot days between the rains.

There was a fire incident in the Puerta de la Yesca, which threatened one of the reserves and the cloud forests contained therein.  Despite the immediate response from the landowner and neighbors in the area, the other government brigades and our own, the fire quickly grew in size.  Our brigade was composed of the 10 members, led by Abel Reséndez, and 6 members of our staff (Salvador Sarabia, Juan Hernández, Miguel Flores, Abel Reséndiz, Roberto Pedraza and Lucio Baldelamar).  For two consecutive days, they worked and prevented the fire entering the reserve.  It came within 200 meters. 

The fire did severely burn cloud and temperate forests protected under the Biodiversity Carbon Program, which pays forest landowners for capturing carbon.  The owner, Héctor Montes, who has been dedicated for years to the conservation of his forests, was there helping support the brigade with labor, food and logistical support from the very beginning of the flare-up.  Despite the fact that there was damage to his forests, we will not remove his lands from the program, because we anticipate the full recovery of the forest vegetation, and expect to recuperate the CO2 lost in the burn.

 

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Este periodo operamos la protección de las reservas con el equipo de guardaparques sin problemas, manteniendo cercados y perímetros con postes de acero para evitar la entrada de cuatrimotos en una de ellas y  manteniendo la presencia con los recorridos de vigilancia.

La brigada contra incendios que apoya y financia el World Land Trust inició labores el día 1 de marzo y término las mismas el día 26 de junio.Uno de sus miembros fue designado para mantener observación en la torre de vigilancia con la que contamos en la comunidad de Valle Verde, y se limpiaron y rehabilitaron un total de 78 km, es decir, se limpiaron las 67.8 km de brechas que se trabajaron durante 2020 y se rehabilitaron 10.2 km de nuevas brechas cortafuego y senderos, con el fin de proteger a las reservas en las áreas críticas.

 Afortunadamente con las lluvias que se presentaron desde mediados de mayo y cortaron de manera temprana a la temporada de incendios, las afectaciones fueron reducidas comparadas a otros años, aunque el peligro continuó latente por los días de fuete calor entre las precipitaciones. Ello fue básico para limitar el área afectada que sí ardió en el incendio del Puerto de la Yesca, amenazando a una de las reservas y sus bosques de niebla, que aunque recibió atención de inmediato por su propietario y  vecinos de la zona, brigadas oficiales y la nuestra, lo quebrado del terreno y calor lo convirtieron rápidamente en un voraz incendio. En el mismo combatimos además de los 10 brigadistas al mando de Abel Reséndiz, 6 elementos adicionales de nuestra oficina (Salvador Sarabia, Juan Hernández, Miguel Flores, Abel Reséndiz, Roberto Pedraza y Lucio Baldelamar) por dos días consecutivos, cuando por fortuna llovió de fuerte manera por la noche y ello detuvo al fuego, que había brincado a buena parte de las brechas abiertas durante el día anterior.

 Aunque la reserva no fue afectada (el fuego llegó a menos de 200 metros) si quemó con severidad a bosques de niebla y templados, protegidos por pagos por compensación de carbono gracias a nuestro producto Carbono Biodiverso. En este caso en concreto, fue básica la actitud y empeño del propietario, el Sr. Héctor Montes, comprometido desde hace años por la conservación de su bosque, y quien estuvo presente apoyando en el combate con mano de obra, alimentos y logística desde el primer momento. Dada su actitiud, a pesar de que parte de su bosque fue afectada, no consideramos removerlo del programa, pues esperamos una pronta recuperación de la vegetación y la fuga del CO2 sea compensada en el mediano plazo.

jaguar track
jaguar track
Puerto de La Yesca fire
Puerto de La Yesca fire
GESG fire brigade
GESG fire brigade

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Aug 9, 2021

Environmental Education at Home

Forest walk and activity for youth
Forest walk and activity for youth

During the months of April, May, June and July, the educational program held 22 virtual meetings with 681 elementary, middle and high school teachers and 44 students.  Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda took the attendees through an agenda that touched on the following themes: current state of the planet (climate disruption), biodiversity in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, forest environmental services, the Zero Waste campaign and environmental awareness.

Teachers participated from the municipalities of Jalpan de Serra, Landa de Matamoros, Arroyo Seco, Pinal de Amoles and the Huasteca of San Luis Potosí State.  The student group participated from Caborca, Sonora.  Everyone showed a lot of interest in the presentation and some shared their experience. 

With respect for the health measures created in response to the health contingency, we held a workshop at the Tonatico Ranch School.   24 high-school aged young people participated in the program called, “Nature- based solutions.”  The agenda had many practices for healthy living.  It included a forest walk to discuss the carbon capture and water storage in the Sierra Gorda, regenerative management of soils, organic agriculture, healthy eating, how to make preserves, gardening using bio-intensive methods, biofertilizers, and composting.  The training includes talks about the biodiversity within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and environmental threats to the region and the consequences of climate disruption.  We also shared our campaign to minimize waste with the final goal of Zero Waste. 

In April we visited 82 businesses to continue spreading the word about the campaign to reduce waste.  The businesses have made the commitment to avoid the use of single-use products in their sales.  All together we have hung up 80 signs with messages about zero waste. 

We had 12 community meetings with the 154 participants, all taking the necessary precautions, wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance.  In those meetings we talked about the campaign to reduce waste and the prevention of forest fires within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve communities.

Another very relevant activity during this time, has been the distribution of 5,161 didactic materials to teachers, who through parental committees have distributed them to students.  In this way we have informed students about climate change and the actions that we should take to counteract the warming of the planet. 

Two murals in public spaces were painted in this period emphasizing the need to care for ecosystems, with the words, “Starting forest fires is a Federal Crime.”

344 people participated in 14 clean up campaigns along the main roads in the municipalities of Landa de Matamoros, Japlan de Serra, Arroyo Seco and Pinal de Amoles. 

Taking advantage of the rain, we have up until now delivered 9,085 trees for community reforestation.  The species list includes: trivets, ash, a variety of palm trees, jacarandas, white cedars, red cedars, etc.

Clean-up days -separation of recyclables
Clean-up days -separation of recyclables
Delivery of trees for community reforestation proj
Delivery of trees for community reforestation proj
Virtual meetings- student participants
Virtual meetings- student participants
Visits to businesses  "Zero Waste" Campaign
Visits to businesses "Zero Waste" Campaign
Mural
Mural
May 27, 2021

Cloud Forests Should Not Burn

As the name indicates, cloud forests are an ecosystem that by definition has a high level of humidity, frequent cloud cover create an overlay of gray on a palette with tints and flavors from Nearctic and Neotropical realms, here in the Sierra Gorda.  The flora is unique in its diversity, as the spaces in which it grows are unlike any other terrestrial ecosystem.  There are endemic species present as well as species new to science.    

After decades of man-made destruction, less than 1% of Mexico is made up of cloud forests today.  12% Mexico’s flora can be found in these remarkably threatened places, where one in three plant species is endemic.  Thanks to the incessant destruction that our species is doing in establishing pastures and crop lands, and the irresponsible and/ or criminal use of fire, their small surface keeps losing ground.  Climate disruption, a vicious cycle, is creating stronger droughts and higher temperatures which are drying out the moss and the epiphytes (like orchids and bromeliads) and making them kindle.

This year thanks to the help and support from World Land Trust, we had our own firefighting brigade, made up of 10 firefighters.  GESG staff added 6 more firefighters, that together with other brigades, helped control the forest fires that were approaching those cloud forests that we protect.  It is a terrible feeling of desperation and impotence to witness the voraciousness of fire, consuming old oaks all the way up to their canopies.  The bromeliads that serve as an excellent nest for amphibians like tree frogs and salamanders, burned out.  An unthinkable sight as they are some of the plants that are most representative of this ecosystem and usually store water in their leaves.  It is so sad to see a Mexican Porcupine (Coendu mexicanus) and squirrels desperately trying to escape the fire and disappear in smoke.    

These men face the obvious personal risks that hiking over broken limestone, exposed with sharp cracks and holes, razor-like edges of living rock, and the dense smoke that gets in the way everywhere.

We are conscious that with the rising temperatures and the more pronounced dry seasons, fire is the element with the most potential to destroy life, especially in the ecosystems where its evolutional history has been marked by its humidity, and conditions that were so diametrically opposed.  They burn and there are few species adapted to resist the flames and grow back after the fire. 

The better prepared we are, with preventative measures in place, appropriate equipment, and training, the better capable we will be to protect Nature and our communities.

Please join us in our effort.

 
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