A Tale of Two Reserves

by Diana Friedeberg, MC

If you’re from the United States, or most other parts of the world, you probably think of a Natural Protected Area as a place where the government has jurisdiction over the land, and the responsibility for protecting it. In Mexico’s unique NPA system, all lands are privately owned. And, although there are some restrictions that landowners must abide by under the NPA system, what they do on their lands, for better or worse, is largely up to them.

This week, we visited two private reserves, each created under different circumstances, but both doing their part to enhance the Mexican system of protected areas and playing a key role in jaguar conservation and corridor connectivity.

The Northern Jaguar Reserve (NJR) bought several ranches in Sonora, establishing a 22,257 ha reserve that protects what is believed to be the northern-most breeding population of jaguars and is now in the process of acquiring federally protected status. They’re to be commended for adding to the 90 million plus hectares that are currently managed under the NPA system in the country.

The 6117 ha Reserva Monte Mojino, run by Nature and Culture International, was established within the Alamos Natural Protected Area (NPA) to conserve what remains of the tropical deciduous forest in southern Sonora and the important animal species that inhabit it.

Having federally protected status provides an extra layer of protection and conveys certain benefits. There is a judicial framework that makes it easier to implement environmental laws. And, as a federally recognized NPA, you can apply for federal grants to carry out conservation projects.

But even within that framework, landowners are ultimately responsible for what happens on their land, not the government. So, who your neighbors are matters. The land tenure and management of a reserve’s neighbors can greatly facilitate or hamper its conservation efforts.

Both NJR and Monte Mojino are contributing mightily to jaguar conservation in Mexico, through their stewardship of critical landscapes, their scientific research, and their community outreach and provide important models for conservation nationwide.

There are vast landscapes in Mexico housing important ecosystems in dire need of protection. It is absolutely imperative that more private reserves are established, and that the Commission for Natural Protected Areas extends its domain and declares more NPAs whenever possible.

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