What We Achieved in 15 Years

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In 2016, Terra Peninsular celebrated 15 years of working on environmental conservation in Baja California.

1. The National Comission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) recognized 1,820.62 acres of Rancho La Concepción as an Area Voluntarily Destined for Conservation (ADVC).

2. Protection of 29,739.47 acres of maritime succulent scrub.

3. The 9,131.03 acres of the Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve are recognized as an ADVC by CONANP.

4. The San Quintín Coalition was formed in 2010 along with ProEsteros, Pronatura and The Nature Conservancy.

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5. The San Quintín Coalition promoted the protection of 297,803.99 acres of the San Quintín Lagoon Complex as a Natural Protected Area.

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6. Thanks to the efforts of the San Quintín Coalition, 13,437.59 acres of San Quintín Bay are recognized as a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance.

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7. Protection of 3,884.62 acres of coastal wetlands and sandy beaches at the San Quintín Lagoon Complex.

8. We’re currently promoting the protection of 1,422,126.90 acres in Sierra de Juárez as a Forest Reserve.

9. By a conservation agreement with Ejido Laguna Hanson and Rancho Rodeo del Rey, 4,504.73 acres in Sierra de Juárez are protected.

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10. The first ten California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) were reintroduced in Baja California with the collaboration of the Center of Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada (CICESE) and the San Diego Zoo.

11. 45 awareness and community engagement events, including exhibitions, workshops and conferences.

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12. Protection of 4,498.85 acres of the San Quintín Volcanic Valley Nature Reserve.

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13. The National Comission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) recognized the 2,034.81 acres of the Punta Mazo Nature Reserve as an Area Voluntarily Destined for Conservation (ADVC).

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14. Monitoring for five consecutive years the main species of shorebirds, waterbirds and migratory birds at San Quintín Bay, mainly black brants, snowy plovers, herons, terns and skimmers.

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15.- Along with the communities of San Quintín Bay, we built 2 interpretative stations, collected 30 tons of trash, managed one Temporary Employment Program, we hosted the First Annual Bird Festival, and the first Environmental Monitoring Committee was conformed.

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California Floristic Province

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Although almost every place in our planet contains life, not all places are equal.  Due to the mixture of geological, physical, geographical and other factors that favor a high number of different habitats that in turn favor a high number of different and endemic species, over 50% of the world’s plant and 42% of all terrestrial vertebrate species are endemic to 35 biodiversity hotspots.

The California Floristic Province, a region that extends from Santa Barbara in Southern California to the parallel 30th in Northern Baja California (about 220 miles from San Diego), has been identified as one of these 35 regions that present a high degree of endemism and biodiversity.

California Floristic Province USA and Mexico

The California Floristic Province region has a Mediterranean climate that is characterized by very hot summers, and very humid and not so cold winters. It comprises various habitats including coastal sagebrush, shrub land, chaparral riparian forest and cypress forest. The region is home to at least 3,488 plant species (2,124 of them endemic), 340 bird species, 157 mammal species, 73 freshwater fish species, 69 reptile species and 46 amphibian species.

Although only eight percent (six million acres) of the California Floristic Province is in Mexico, its conservation is extremely important since many ecosystems in California have already been wiped out by commercial farming, pollution, road construction and urban development.

Unfortunately, urban development, mining and large-scale energy projects are threatening the last remaining intact areas in the Mexican California Floristic Province too. Map of the California Floristic Province. Source: California Academy of Sciences.

Lecture on Emergency Preparedness for the El Niño Phenomenon

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Por Antonieta Valenzuela

In order to inform and promote emergency preparedness in San Quintín, Terra Peninsular A.C. along with the Asociación de Oceanólogos de México A.C. (Oceanographers Association of Mexico A.C.) organized the lecture series entitled “Dissemination of Risks and Emergency Preparedness against the El Niño Phenomenon.”

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More than 60 people attended the information forum that was held on February 18, 2016 at Posada Don Diego in Vicente Guerrero, in San Quintín. During the event, the participants were able to clarify questions concerning the impacts of the El Niño phenomenon.

The program included lectures by Cuauhtémoc Turrent Thompson, PhD, researcher at the Department of Physical Oceanography at CICESE; Miguel A. Tellez Duarte, PhD, professor of Geology at the Faculty of Marine Sciences of UABC; and the Director of Municipal Civil Denfense, Arturo Granados González, EMT.
During their presentations, the speakers agreed on the importance of sharing information with the community about the El Niño phenomenon and its possible effects in Ensenada, San Quintin and their surroundings; they also insisted on promoting the culture of emergency preparadness due to the risk of potentially heavy rains in the region.

The event began with a lecture by Turrent Thompson who talked about “El Niño and its Effects on Precipitation in Baja California;” he said that El Niño is described as warm water that has accumulated at the western side of the Pacific Ocean, and heavy rains is one of its known effects.

On the other hand, Tellez spoke about “El Niño, Rain and Geological Risk,” and described the main risks of rain that include: floods, mudslides and landslides. He invited the community to raise public awareness, educate on the culture of emergency preparadness, and the importance of understanding natural phenomena as well as to understand landscapes before building, and to avoid building in sites near rivers, streams and hillsides.

Tellez also explained that public safety, economic costs and human lives are at stake if we do not develop emergency preparedness plans for communities. He also showed some photographs to demonstrate the effects of flooding in urban and rural areas of Baja California.

To end the lecture series, the Director of Municipal Civil Defense, Arturo Granados González, presented, “Preventive Measures before the Rain Season,” and talked about the overview of the risk areas.

He showed the polygons of the San Quintín region that would be flooded so the community is aware. In addition, he explained that the analysis of these polygons is being constantly reinforced through the participation and Civil Defense neighborhood committees. Finally, he said that shelters, with enough space capacity, that could be used in case of an incident are always being identified, and he added that it is crucial to keep the community informed to avoid major disasters on the area.

New Environmental Monitoring Committee in San Quintín

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By Antonieta Valenzuela

The Community La Chorera Environmental Monitoring Committee was officially created on February 17, 2016. During one year, the members will be responsible for the detection and report of environmental illegal activities in San Quintín Bay.

Environmental Monitoring Committee La Chorera 2016 Terra Peninsular

Through monitoring and by providing reports, the committee aims to protect and conserve the natural resources of the wetlands in San Quintín Bay; this place is classified as a RAMSAR site (a wetland of international importance). Committee members will perform as observers for the authorities, and they will be responsible for detecting different environmental violations such as illegal hunting, extraction of flora and fauna without permits, among others.

Environmental Monitoring Committee La Chorera 2016 Terra Peninsular

Forming a monitoring committee in San Quintín Bay was part of the projects of Terra Peninsular alongside the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). The community La Chorera was invited to participate for environmental protection.

They will perform as observers for the authorities by reporting any environmental problems, and then the Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) will take appropriate action. The reports will be handed over in a regular basis, and then PROFEPA will take the necessary measures depending on each specific environmental violation.

Environmental Monitoring Committee La Chorera 2016 Terra Peninsular

“They shall exercise their right to formulate and promote environmental reporting as a legal instrument to prevent and stop environmental violations that may cause or have caused an ecological imbalance” as explained in the constitutive act. The committee is composed of nine members and a Board, both of Terra Peninsular and residents of La Chorera.

For a better understanding of their function as environmental guardians, PROFEPA offered a training course to the members of the Community La Chorera Environmental Monitoring Committee.

Seagrass Monitoring

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By Enrique Alfaro

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The seagrass biomass protocol was conducted between November 2015 and January 2016.

As part of a regional program to develop a database with biological information about the coastal lagoons of Baja California, an evaluation of seagrass distribution in San Quintin Bay was performed between November and January. The bay is relevant both for its economic and ecological value.

Seagrass monitoring in San Quintín 2016 Terra Peninsular

In order to continue with the work of David H. Ward and his team, two measurement samplings were carried out in San Quintin Bay; the first one from November 23 to 28, and the second one from January 23 to 24 of 2016.

Lagoons in Baja California are constantly threatened by commercial development and population growth. The anthropogenic alterations of the coastal environment have been linked to the global destruction of seagrass banks.

These alterations, related to their distribution and coverage, directly affect the population and distribution of other marine organisms that depend on them, this includes: fish, aquatic birds, and marine mammals.

The global decrease of seagrass coverage has resulted in the need of making an inventory and monitoring this valuable natural resource.

The local and regional assessment of seagrass distribution and abundance could be used to guide conservation management efforts. Furthermore, it could also maximize research projects performed in the coastal zone. In addition, the data could be used to evaluate seagrass capacity to support resident and migratory populations.

In order to comply with the collection protocol, the researchers had to use a boat for transportation in order to get to each site. Besides, samplings have to be completed during two new moon or full moon days and during negative low tides so that the seagrass is completely exposed.

Seagrass monitoring in San Quintín 2016 Terra Peninsular

To locate these sites a GPS is needed. Afterwards, a quadrant is defined and the percentage of seagrass (Zostera marina, Ruppia marítima), mud, and algae coverage is estimated. Later, the number of plants and buds within the quadrant has to be counted, and then 10 plants are selected as a representative sample in order to measure their length. This process is repeated in every site.

The seagrass monitoring was performed with the participation of M.S. Enrique Alfaro, Field and Operations Officer of Terra Peninsular A.C. along with Dionisio Guerrero, M.S. Karen Raquel Villegas, M.S. Mónica Cecilia Mosqueda and M.S. Alberto Salazar.

Seagrass monitoring in San Quintín 2016 Terra Peninsular

New protected areas in San Quintín Bay

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By Verónica Meza

The Destination Agreements (Acuerdos de destino) for the protection of two wetlands in San Quintín Bay, Ensenada were approved last December. Panteón Inglés Norte and Punta Azufre wetlands are now protected by the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP). This event was published on the Official Journal of the Federation on December 23, 2015.

Not only do these agreements enable the protection of the 237,229.192 square meters already established in San Quintín Bay, but they also allow the extension of the protection to the whole bay helping the ecosystem and the species. For years, CONANP has been working alongside Terra Peninsular to achieve this through a precise process.

  • Sudoeste (2012)
  • Panteón Inglés Sur (2014)
  • Panteón Inglés Norte (2015)
  • Punta Azufre (2015)

Since 2008, Terra Peninsular has worked alongside CONANP and other organizations to protect hundreds of miles in Baja California’s coastal area by identifying and demarking the most important natural areas. Afterwards, these areas are promoted to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources to put them at the disposal of CONANP for their designation as Destination Agreements.

The designated use for Destination Agreements is protection, and therefore, it is a resource to help maintaining the natural state of the Maritime and Terrestrial Federal Zone (ZOFEMAT), which is a line that is 20 meters wide and demarcates a vital space between the ocean and land; this border belongs to all of us and it’s established in the Law of National Assets.

Terra Peninsular is making a joint effort with CONANP for the surveillance and protection of the Destination Agreements in San Quintín Bay, and we’re still working on increasing the surface of protected areas.

San Quintín Bay has been identified as a Priority Terrestrial Region by the Mexican National Biodiversity Commission, an Important Bird Area, a Center of Plant Diversity by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and a Site of Regional Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Moreover, in 2008 the bay’s lagoon complex was declared as Wetlands of International Importance by the RAMSAR Convention.

Baja California’s high biodiversity is due to its geographic location. The region of San Quintín Bay is relevant because it has a large number of terrestrial and marine species and because it’s also a breeding and wintering zone. During the winter, the bay welcomes over 25 000 migratory shorebirds because it’s an important location in the Pacific Flyway route.

Taking care of the border between the ocean and the continent is of great importance for life’s development in both systems. The well-being of the marine ecosystems depends on the well-being of the terrestrial ecosystems and every living thing that interacts in a recyclable and mutual relationship.

What We Achieved in 2015

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Terra Peninsular currently manages and protects the Punta Mazo Nature Reserve, the wetlands and Monte Ceniza in the San Quintín Bay, and the Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve. We want to share what we achieved in 2015, as well as some of the projects we’re still working on:

  • We presented the Pescador de Momentos photo exhibit by José “El Güero” Arce, in Loreto, La Paz and Guerrero Negro to promote the magically beautiful landscapes of Baja California.

Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve

  • In mid-November five Bighorn Sheep were seen at Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve for the first time. The presence of this flagship species at risk of extinction indicates that the reserve is working!

Punta Mazo Nature Reserve and San Quintín Bay

  • In June, 30 tons of trash were collected in the wetlands of San Quintín Bay, where we also conduct bird and marine pasture monitoring.
  • For public awareness, in September we began a Temporary Employment Program together with Secretary of Natural Resources (SEMARNAT).
  • Two interpretative stations were built, they work to provide information about the area for visitors. The first is the Wave and is located within the Punta Mazo Nature Reserve, and the second is called Mirador Valle Volcanic and to appreciate the most volcanoes.
  • We promoted bird watching with the first Bird Festival in San Quintín Bay, and our goal is to make it an annual Terra Peninsular event. We will also be working together with the communities of La Chorera and Chapala, in San Quintín, to start a local Surveillance Committee.
  • In late December, two Destination Agreements (Acuerdos de destino) for the protection of two wetlands in San Quintín Bay, Ensenada were approved.
  • We’re working on establishing the declaration of the San Quintín lagoon complex as a Biosphere Reserve.

Sierra de San Pedro Mártir and Sierra de Juárez

  • We want to reestablish Sierra de Juárez and Sierra San Pedro Mártir both as Forest Reserves.
  • We’re working to prevent overgrazing in Sierra de San Pedro Mártir to protect biodiversity; we are also working alongside the National Park and nearby ranches through a conservation cooperation agreement in Sierra San Pedro Mártir.

First Field Trip With the New Staff Members

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By Antonieta Valenzuela

On mid-December, the first field trip with the two new staff members of the Department of Conservation was carried out.

The objective consisted in going on a trip to the protected areas of San Quintín Bay and Valle Tranquilo so the new members could get to know these areas, as well as analyze each place’s problems.

The first day they went towards the south of Ensenada and traveled to the Punta Mazo Nature Reserve, located in San Quintín Bay. The task consisted in looking for strategic sites to place photo traps, which would be used to analyze the concurrence of the paths on this place and their impact. Later, they continued the tour towards La Ola interpretative station, located within the reserve and at the south end of the Punta Mazo sand bar.

Later in the day, the team traveled to Mirador Valle Volcánico station, where the majority of extinct volcanoes in the zone can be appreciated. There, Gaby and Jorge met the second interpretative station built in 2015.

In Monte Cenizo (also located inside the San Quintin Bay) they toured a zone of a future project that includes the construction of a biological station for researchers.

The next day, they traveled to the Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve, where they inspected the zone and worked on ideas for site management. The team shared that little human impact can be perceived on that zone, even though a solution has to come in regards to illegal hunting. One of the projects consists in installing cameras to monitor paths and continuing the strategies to guarantee the protection of the area.

The new members of the Conservation team participated in this trip: Gabriela Valle Ramírez de Arellano, Adaptive Habitat Management Coordinator and Jorge Andrade Sánchez, Community Engagement Coordinator; both of them accompanied by Cesar Guerrero, Executive Director of Terra Peninsular, altogether with Field and Operations Officer in San Quintin, Enrique Alfaro.

Celebrating Christmas at Terra Peninsular

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By Bárbara Ramírez

Parties, posadas and gift exchanges are part of the holiday season, and but for this year’s gathering reunion the Terra Peninsular team wanted to do something different, so we wrapped ourselves up with in warm clothes, we packed sleeping bags, blankets, outwear, outdoor gear, food and a couple of bottles of wine (Mexican wine, of course) and we began our adventure towards the Rancho La Conception Nature Reserve (also known as Dark Skies Ranch) located near Sierra San Pedro Martir.

After several back and forths on many road curvey roads, a bumpy not-so-nice road and even passengers who felt dizzy (obviously, those of us who spend more time at the office), we finally arrived at Dark Skies Ranch in the afternoon. Thanks to Mike and Pam, our friends and owners of the ranch, we had the opportunity to enjoy our end-of-the-year celebration in this beautiful place.

Once we were settled into our room at the house, we decided to take a walk through the forest, and found the perfect spot to watch the sunset. We were awed by the amazing scenery in front of us; it’s incredible how the horizon lines dissolve among the beautiful colors of the sunset.

Back at the ranch we had dinner (what a feast!), then a gift exchange, and ended with a toast around the bonfire.

Our trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Sierra San Pedro Martir National Park, so the next day we decided to visit (after waking up with the right amount of coffee). The park is not far away from Dark Skies Ranch, and as we drove up the road, we saw how the landscape changes, turning into a snowy scene, just like a Christmas card. We didn’t stay too long at the park, but it was long enough to enjoy a snow fight against the boss!

We couldn’t end our trip without visiting the Sierra San Pedro Martir National Park, and the next day we decided to go there (after waking up with the right amount of coffee). The park is not far away from Dark Skies Ranch, and while we were going up the road, we could see that the landscape changes and it turns into a snowy scene, just like a Christmas card. We didn’t stay too much at the park, but it was long enough to enjoy a snow fight against our boss!

Terra Peninsular works well partly because our team is unified; we feel very lucky to be part of this family and to work together.

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Bighorn Sheep Sighting

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By Antonieta Valenzuela

On November 15, 2015, five Bighorn Sheep were seen at the Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve, an area located in the southern part of Ensenada that is protected and managed by Terra Peninsular.

Jim Riley, friend and collaborator of Terra Peninsular, shared his experience with us. He went on a field trip to this reserve during mid-November along with a group of researchers. Despite the rain, the group first camped at El Rosario to go on an excursion into the valley afterwards. During their trip, they had the opportunity of seeing a herd of five Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis).

What is remarkable about this is that this endangered species was seen for the first time in that part of Baja California. For Terra Peninsular, this event represents an accomplishment, for its presence indicates that the reserve is working. Thus, we will continue working to guarantee the protection of the fauna and flora of the reserve, as well as other natural areas.