|Description||The project will promote biodiversity conservation in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. Among the protected areas in Mexico, the Sierra Gorda has the highest degree of biodiversity, due to great altitudinal variations and a heterogeneous rain pattern. It harbours a total of 14 vegetation types, several of global importance, with high levels of species endemism, presence of charismatic species and the unique representation of a transition zone between two bio-geographic regions. Although its natural integrity is largely intact, extensive cattle and goat ranching, inefficient agricultural practices, inadequate forest management, poaching, and solid waste pollution threaten the integrity of the Reserve’s dynamic ecosystem.
This project will mitigate such immediate threats and their fundamental causes through the implementation of an alternative management model in the Reserve, that promotes shared responsibilities between the Sierra Gorda Ecological Group, an NGO, and the State, represented by the National Commission for Protected Areas. Existing management capacities will be strengthened through training of current and additional central and local staff, expanded infrastructure and equipment, improved co-ordination through existing institutional frameworks and the development of long-term alternative funding sources. To ensure operational sustainability, the project will strengthen a self-financing scheme based on a progressively increasing coverage of the Reserve recurrent costs through service provision. This approach will form part of the National System of Protected Areas (SINAP) menu of financial regimes available in the country for biodiversity conservation. Socio-economic and biological appraisals will reinforce the design and implementation of conservation and sustainable livelihood interventions in the Reserve and its immediate buffer and influence areas, to ensure strategies are differentiated according to local conditions and use categorisation as established through land planning. The project will take a bioregional approach to conservation, demonstrating and formalising alternative conservation schemes for private lands and community-owned lands (ejidos) that build upon existing use traditions and community involvement. Special attention will be given to the promotion of sustained conservation awareness throughout the Reserve and its immediate surroundings, including the creation of public-private partnerships that would fundamentally change land use on the predominantly privately owned land in the Reserve. Operations would be consolidated gradually across the Reserve’s landscape as conservation and sustainable livelihood options are tested and institutional capacities developed.
The Government of Mexico is presently working with the GEF Secretariat and the Implementing Agencies to develop a 5-10 year Programmatic Framework for GEF support of biodiversity conservation initiatives in Mexico. This Framework specifically provides for the development of pilot conservation models in some areas that demonstrate alternative and innovative management approaches. Clearly, the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve provides a vehicle for experimentation with public-private partnerships and decentralisation of management that could expand the range of management instruments available. If successful, the model may have wide replication potential in other protected areas in Mexico.|