David Ross

The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (SGBR) was created in 1997 and is located in the north of Querétaro State, forming part of the Eastern Sierra Madre; it has an area of 383,567 hectares (approx. 1 million acres) equivalent to 32% of the state´s territory. Within the federally protected Biosphere Reserve there is a population of around 95,000 inhabitants who own 97% of the land; 27% is owned by agrarian communities called ejidos and 70% is owned by small landholders. In terms of ecosystem diversity, the SGBR occupies first place in mega-diverse Mexico among natural protected areas, making its conservation essential; vegetation types range from arid scrub to temperate and mountain cloud forests, riparian forests and three variants of tropical forests. It shelters numerous species of flora and fauna at risk of extinction and serves as a refuge for migratory species. For its extraordinary biotic values, the SGBR is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the Man and Biosphere Program (MAB) of UNESCO, is considered an Important Bird Conservation Area, and contains a RAMSAR site. The SGBR has more than 500 archaeological sites and since 2003, five 18th-century Franciscan missions are designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Significantly, this is a living model of community-based conservation management where 35,000 residents have received training and carried out thousands of small actions in restoration, recycling, education and productive development for the last 24 years. Conservation of the SGBR’s ecosystems and the services they provide can only be achieved by generating economic opportunities for local forest owners. Therefore, adapting to climate change and fighting poverty must go hand in hand. The Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, I.A.P. (GESG) and the Alliance for the Conservation of the Sierra Gorda (Alliance) have been recognized by many valuable partners around the world, including Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and Rolex Prize for Enterprise. Bosque Sustentable, A.C. is the principal operator of the Alliance’s carbon ecosystem service projects.