The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve

One of the most important environmental regions in Mexico, the Sierra Gorda is set apart by its stunning biodiversity and by efforts to preserve this natural wonder through sustainable initiatives.
The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (SGBR) is almost one million acres in size, covering the northern third of the state of Queretaro.  It occupies first place in mega-diverse Mexico among natural protected areas, home to 10 of the country’s 11 ecosystems.

Altitudes range from just 300 meters above sea level to over 3,100 meters, with the lanadscape changing from arid high desert, to rugged mountains and canyons, to lush valleys and forested peaks. Vegetation types range from arid scrub, temperate and mountain cloud forests, to ancient riparian forests and three variants of tropical forests. In fact, the reserve boasts more than 2,300 plant species, with some of the oldest and most environmentally significant forests of Mexico.

With such a diversity of ecosystems, it’s not surprising that the Sierra Gorda is home to an equally impressive array of fauna – many of which are endangered – including:

 
  • 130 species of mammals, including the black bear and spider monkey
  • All six species of Mexico’s felines (the Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi, Cougar, Bobcat, and Jaguar)
  • 360 species of birds, representing more than 30% of the birds found in the entire country
  • Numerous frogs and other amphibians, including endangered salamanders 650 types of butterflies – more than Canada and the US combined

With its extraordinary biotic values, the SGBR is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the Man and Biosphere Program (MaB).  In addition, the Reserve has more than 500 archaeological sites, including five 18th-century Franciscan missions which have also been designated as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.

More than 640 communities and 50,000 inhabitants live in the Reserve, owning 97% of the land, and therefore playing a critical role in its preservation and protection.  But while surrounded by natural and cultural riches, the communities in the Sierra Gorda remain amongst the poorest in the country.  Without income opportunities, impoverished traditional landowners often resort to illegal logging, hunting and other harmful practices.

That’s why we work with local communities to create sustainable livelihoods and actively engage them in the protection of the region. We provide fair compensation to landowners who undertake conservation activities, such as regenerating damaged habitats and protecting old forests against extensive grazing in the undergrowth and illegal logging, building the forest’s carbon capture capacity. We also invest in community micro-enterprises such as ecotourism and fair trade eco-products.

All of these projects are not only creating sustainable alternatives to logging, hunting, and high-impact ranching; they are also transforming the way local communities value their natural resources and ecosystems.

With ongoing public support, we can continue to work with communities to protect this incredible natural resource, in turn ensuring that the region continues to combat climate change through carbon capture.



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