Good News: We Won Our Legal Battle

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After an extensive legal process, Terra Peninsular won the trial against 9 people with illegally issued property titles on protected natural areas of San Quintin, this was confirmed by the court when it ruled in favor of the civil association.

“We are very excited to know that justice was done, these natural reserves were in danger during these last years and it would have been a great loss for the conservation of natural areas and wildlife”, said César Guerrero, Executive Director. 

Bahía San Quintín
San Quintin Bay. Photo Jonathan Villarreal.

“Despite being involved in the legal dispute, in recent years we continued to carry out conservation and management actions in the natural areas of San Quintin thanks to the support of public and private collaborators. Natural areas are essential for humanity, they provide us with many benefits both to society and to nature and it’s important to ensure their protection for future generations”, he said.

The Executive Director added that despite the good news, there is a clause in the sentence that is ambiguous and leaves open the possibility of renewed attempts of dispossession, so he asks for the support of society to spread this news and ask the Supreme Court of Justice to address the case and provide a definitive solution to protect the nature reserves. He also added that the legal team will follow up on the issue to cancel the public records of the false titles.

Regarding the situation, he commented that “There is an ambiguity of the authority around land tenure in San Quintin that continues to cause confusion, we have even had problems with some local actors who doubt the veracity of land tenure and the areas we protect.”

Reserva Natural Punta Mazo
Punta Mazo Nature Reserve. Photo by Jonathan Villarreal.

In 2015, the organization was involuntarily involved in a legal dispute when SEDATU issued 10 illegal property titles on behalf of 9 people in the properties of the Punta Mazo Nature Reserve and the Monte Ceniza Nature Reserve, which were legally acquired by the civil association. False titles were signed by the former head of SEDATU, Rosario Robles Berlanga, and issued without a judge’s ruling.

One of the arguments presented by this group of people is that the properties are national lands based on the Declaration of National Property of the Tecate-Tijuana-Ensenada polygon, which was published on October 9, 1984. This argument is not valid, since San Quintin is located 180 kilometers south of that polygon. In addition, Punta Mazo and Monte Ceniza were already private properties when they were acquired by the civil association in 2012 and 2015. Both nature reserves total more than 1,600 hectares and are certified by the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) as Areas Voluntarily Destined for Conservation (ADVC).

Monte Ceniza Nature Reserve. Photo by Antonieta Valenzuela.

The nature reserves protect the natural and historical heritage of the region by being home to endangered species of animals and plants, archaeological remains dating back more than 8,000 years, as well as fragile and unique ecosystems, such as wetlands, volcanoes, dunes and coastal scrub. They also provide many benefits to society, for example, they are spaces to enjoy outdoor activities, provide protection from natural disasters, and help maintain water quality, to name a few.

In addition to the Punta Mazo and Monte Ceniza nature reserves, in San Quintin there are other protected areas, such as the San Quintin Nature Reserve and more than 2,000 hectares of coastal areas certified as concessions. The bay is also a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention and is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

San Quintin is a Ramsar Site. Photo by Laura Tamayo.

Terra Peninsular has been carrying out conservation projects in Baja California for more than 20 years, one of the most recent achievements is the rediscovery of the San Quintin kangaroo rat, archaeological vestiges were found in the nature reserves through joint work with the INAH, and in 2021 the San Quintin Nature Reserve was certified, owned by the Government of the State of Baja California and also certified as ADVC by the federal government.

The civil association received the Partners in Flight Award for bird conservation efforts and the Bird Festival’s community focus, and in 2021 was one of three Pathfinder Award finalists in recognition of innovation in nature conservation.

Timeline

2012

  • Terra Peninsular completed the purchase of 830 hectares of coastline in San Quintin Bay, Baja California and created the Punta Mazo Nature Reserve, the first in that area dedicated to conservation.

2014

  • The Punta Mazo Nature Reserve was certified by CONANP as a Area Voluntarily Destined for Conservation, a category of federally protected natural area. Certificate number: CONANP-379/2014.

2015

  • Terra Peninsular completed the purchase of 803 hectares in the central peninsula of San Quintin and created the Monte Ceniza Nature Reserve.
  • The Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (SEDATU) issued ten titles of property in Punta Mazo and Monte Ceniza in favor of 9 people who have no relationship with Terra Peninsular. The titles were signed on November 19, 2015 by the former holder of the SEDATU, Rosario Robles Berlanga. The operation was completed without a judge’s ruling.

2016

  •  Staff members of Terra Peninsular went to the Land Registration Office in Ensenada to pay the corresponding property taxes on May 17, 2016, there they were informed that the property office codes (claves catastrales) had been eliminated and in their place new codes were created in the Punta Mazo and Monte Ceniza properties.
  • On June 3, 2016, Terra Peninsular issued an urgent statement to report on the attempted dispossession of its properties with false titles.

2017

  • As part of the legal defense, the civil association filed two amparo suits and a criminal lawsuit against the former SEDATU holder, Rosario Robles Berlanga. One of them was promoted in Mexico City and the other in Baja California.
  • The Punta Mazo Nature Reserve was certified by CONANP as a Area Voluntarily Destined for Conservation, a category of federally protected natural area. Certificate number: CONANP-407/2017.

2019 

  • The trial was held in Ensenada and the association obtained the ruling in favor, it was ruled that the titles have administrative errors and irregularities and are not valid, SEDATU is also asked to cancel such property titles.
  • The 9 people appealed the disagreement and the trial was taken to the Collegiate Court of Mexicali.

2022

  • The Collegiate Court of Mexicali ruled in favor of Terra Peninsular on January 27, 2022.

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