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Land/farm: El Tepozán, San Antonio Tancoyol, Jalpan de Serra, 500 hectares. Tomás has a 500-hectare property, known as "El Topozán" in the community of San Antonio Tancoyol. It is an oak forest, in which the presence of the following species has been detected: jaguar, margay, ocelot, tepemiche, jaguarundi, porcupines, ajol, wild turkey, great curassow, frogs, and fer-de-lance. For his work caring for the land, Tomás received payments for ecosystem services from the National Commission of Forestry (Conafor). "There are many animals. Puma, ajol, deer...I saw them when I lived there for four years, to see how life on a ranch would be". With the payments, he was able to reinforce around two kilometers of fencing on his property to assure that neighboring livestock could not enter. He also constructed a water collection tank. "I am a fanatic of nature, to the point that when I see someone in the community carrying a slingshot, I become upset. And when I was living on the ranch, even though I saw all those wild animals, I never shot one." "I am completely against cutting down trees, burning trash...if I could have, I would have continued living at my ranch, I would have stayed there until I died on my land", Tomás explained emotionally.
Land/farm: Puerto de los Bueyes, 860 hectares.
Francisca has lived for 16 years on her 860 hectare property in the community of Puerto de los Bueyes.Over the course of three years, she received payments for ecosystem services from Fundación Gonzalo Río Arronte. "No matter where you go it is a beautiful forest. There is white cedar and red cedar, juniper...these are very coveted by the people who cut timber illegally for posts and boards. When they saw that I had come here to live, they had to become more discreet. Now, they don't cut living trees or take the wood. They are more respectful of nature now than they were in past...then, they would even cut down palm trees", Francisca relates. "With the payments that I received, I was able to fence in the majority of my property to keep out the open range livestock that my neighbors keep. The wire for fencing is expensive, as is the labor, and that is how I used the money". "I would like to invite the people who donated to visit this area. There are places here that are truly natural sanctuaries. The way to Los Indios Cave goes through one of these sanctuaries, a stand of pure junipers. I would love it if donors could come to see the places we are conserving and maybe provide another small amount of assistance".
Land/farm: San Antonio Tancoyol, Jalpan de Serra, 38 hectares.
Silvestre Cabrera Castillo, 65 years of age, is a man who is concerned for the environment. In 2012, the company Bombardier began to pay him a yearly sum for the carbon captured on his property, which is 38 hectares in size and is located in the community of San Antonia Tancoyol. "In the past, I had a few cattle here but not anymore. I removed them all when the program started. Since then, you can see changes. The forest is denser, and more animals are coming to feed". Silvestre is also a lover of wildlife, including peccaries - relatives of wild boars, native to the Americas - which he indulges with treats such as acorns, guavas, and maize. "In the past, people in the community would consume them for food, but now they do not harm them. The peccaries stay in the pastures, where people don't bother them; that's where you'll find the herds, the mothers with the little ones. It's really wonderful".
Land/farm: "Cañada Las Avispas", Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve core conservation zone, San Juan de los Durán, Jalpan de Serra, 3267 hectares which belong to a group of 45 people from San Juan de los Durán.
Primitivo lives with his wife, son and brothers and is the Representative of the San Juan de los Duran society, the collective owner of more than 3,000 hectares of some of the most biologically important and pristine forests of the Sierra Gorda, including firs, cedars and pines.
In the past, the community did not take part in forest conservation activities. They would clear forest to plant maize and beans, and to meet the growing need to earn incomes, they started to sell timber from the forest and graze cattle. At the beginning, the community was not aware of the negative effects these activities were provoking in the forest. Additionally, due to the age and density of the understory, the harm caused to the trees, ecosystems and habitats was not immediately obvious. However, when they saw that the pines were beginning to die as a result of goats eating the bark, the impact of the destruction was visible and the community began to get worried. Then, the same as many others in the Sierra Gorda, Primitivo and his community faced a difficult choice: to obtain a minimal income by raising livestock and selling timber, or conserve their natural resources and live in conditions of poverty. Now, with Grupo Ecologico’s offset program, they have a viable alternative for making a living. The community receives regular payments in exchange for conserving their lands and for the environmental services and the carbon capture which these old forests provide. “The program (GESG’s) will be of much help to us and to the forest also, because we have to conserve it. If it were a little more, we could take care of it even more”, Primitivo says.
Land/Farm: "Hoya la Ciénaga", Lagunita San Diego, Landa de Matamoros, 100 hectares. Hermilo is a forest proprietor and lives with his wife, Nicanora Servin. Before being part of the Carbon Neutral Planet program, he and his family lived by raising subsistence crops and livestock and harvesting the local "lechuguilla" agave to sell natural rope made from the fibers. However, with the increase in the use of plastic, the demand for these artisanal products fell and the family ended up in poverty. Several years, when a road was built to their isolated community, they began to sell timber. However, in recent years the trees have been affected by 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 their forests they receive an income which they live from. The state government and other donors, through the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, support Hermilo’s family and other proprietors in exchange for not logging the forest, excluding their livestock, and not engaging in any other agricultural activities in 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.
Land/Farm:"Los Órganos", bordering the Santa Maria River, San Antonio Tancoyol, Jalpan de Serra, 375 hectares. Valentin’s story shows the transformation in thinking about the environment which is taking place in the Sierra Gorda.
During all his life, Valentin has made his living from livestock and agriculture. Each year, he burned the forest to be able to plant new crops and carry out other intensive agricultural activities. He began to see how these activities destroyed the forest and he was being left without a way to make a living. Now, through the support of the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda and its donors, he uses his abilities and energies to conserve the forest. Little by little, his forests are returning to their natural state and are now providing vital habitats for native wildlife. Now Valentin does not have to choose between poverty and conservation, and is grateful for the possibility of playing a positive role in the protection of the Sierra Gorda and in combating climate change. “We know from the TV about global warming and that any burning harms us. I am old now and the funds I receive really help me to support myself and so that my forest is conserved,” he says.
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