By Verónica Meza / Land Protection Coordinator
This article was translated by Amairani Márquez and Manuel Eduardo Mendoza
Mexico City, February 27 and 28, 2019.- A meeting of experts, an ambitious work agenda and a celebration around the Areas Voluntarily Destined for Conservation (ADVC for its initials in Spanish). Created 10 years ago as federal Natural Protected Areas, ADVCs have become one of the most promising and favorite tools of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas ( CONANP in Spanish) for the protection of natural areas.
Currently a strategy is under development to promote and strengthen the ADVCs as a legal tool, this to achieve the conservation of priority areas and species throughout the Mexican territory. And, why not? If within everything, the conservation of private lands has been promoted against all odds for at least the last 10 years, adding almost half a million hectares and involving more than 84,000 people to the actions of conservation of valuable spaces of natural wealth.
The ADVCs have been consolidated as a safe path for the conservation of the most biodiverse and important areas, because they are created with conviction of the owners and managers of the land, demonstrating that governance is the base of radical changes in our country.
The ADVC strategy seems to be stronger and more serious than ever, and a commitment was made to protect 1 million hectares (2,471,053 acres) in the following years using this conservation tool.
An Analysis on Conanp’s Strategy
We participated in a workshop given by the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ) to provide feedback on the work areas, this will help to expand the ADVCs and reach the national goal of 1 million hectares; also to recover the lessons learned from the local participants who have implemented this conservation mechanism. This is key to develop a national strategy aimed to conserve the natural resources of our mega-diverse and multicultural country. Mexico has 10% of the species registered in the world, and 13% of the population have indigenous ancestry, according to data from Conabio.
Half a million hectares have been certified since 2002, the first certificate was issued at Jaguaroundi Ecological Park in Veracruz.Currently there are more than 400 certified areas in Mexico.
In Baja California we have about 20,000 hectares contributing to the national statistics, of which almost 6,000 belong to Terra Peninsular with the Punta Mazo, Monte Ceniza, Valle Tranquilo and La Concepción nature reserves (the latter in co-management with the La Concepción Observatory). This gives us a clear idea of the magnitude of this strategy in terms of investment of resources, management and defense of territory.
These communal lands, private, social and public properties are areas of opportunity for environmental and social development, although they adjust to different management strategies, they have a common goal: the preservation, exploitation and sustainable management of the Mexican natural heritage.
What do ADVCs need to be consolidated as efficient conservation tools? Federal government support aligned with public policies, acknowledgement of local activities, and strengthening the balance between conservation and development (or conservation-based development), among other things.
This workshop highlighted the broad range of experiences that have left more than 10 years of land management converted into ADVC. The most pleasing thing is that the word “will” is a well-represented constant in the management actions that have been shared. The results of the implementation of this tool do not stop the motivation to keep this conservation label in force and even expand it, even with the challenges regarding conflict resolution, mainly in land tenure, and the challenge of the cost derived from management.
Forum on Strengthening ADVCs, 10 Years of Being a Federal Natural Protected Area
We went to the Chamber of Representatives in Mexico to talk about the reality of the private properties that have been voluntarily conserved, through a tool that was incorporated into the environmental legislation in 1996 and that began in 2002, currently there are more than 400 ADVCs in Mexico. This is a huge success.
Along with the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Josefa González; National Commissioner of Protected Natural Areas, Andrew Rhodes, and the General Manager of Conservation for the Development at Conanp, César Sánchez Ibarra, some owners and representatives of ADVCs had the opportunity to express their ideas, needs and projections regarding the future of these natural protected areas, including César Guerrero as Executive Director of Terra Peninsular.
A recount of 10 years of experiences with ADVCs was mentioned. Can you do the math? Actually, ADVCs have been developed for more than 17 years, but it is not until 2008 that a reform to chapter 46 of the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA in Spanish) established that ADVCs fall under federal jurisdiction, as well as biosphere reserves, national parks, natural monuments, natural resources protection areas, flora and fauna protection areas, sanctuaries, state parks and reserves, and municipal ecological conservation zones, as well as the other categories established by local legislation.
Thus, these last 10 years the figure of ADVCs have been strengthened, resulting in half a million hectares in active protection and the promise of doubling the protected areas in the following years.
With the support of the French Development Agency and the representatives of the Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change commissions of the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Senators respectively, the voice of the ADVC was sent to the cradle of public policies, hoping to influence and see the conservation effort of private properties potentialized.
Matching the dialogue from the different social areas in which conservation can be conceived as a human need, a matter of public health and a condition for economic development is a process that has taken a long time and to represent it, is art as a unifying tool. So, what better than a photo exhibition in the lobby of San Lázaro to share some of the results of this effort.
Celebrating “a clear interest in nature conservation from Mexican society, driven by a sense of goodwill and environmental commitment” was emphasized in the toast given by Commissioner Andrew Rhodes, in which he recognized the work of the people who contribute to preserve the natural heritage of Mexico for the future.
It remains to be shared that each photo exhibited shares a different story: species and landscapes, such as the horned lizard (Phrynosoma sp.) photographed by Michael Ready in the Punta Mazo Nature Reserve, and a striking moon peeking out of the mountains of the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir, captured by Pamela Weston in the Rancho La Concepción Nature Reserve, among so many other amazing photos that show the continuous work for the conservation of nature.
We would like to thank Josefa González Blanco Ortiz Mena, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources; Andrew Rhodes, National Commissioner of Natural Protected Areas; César Sánchez Ibarra, General Manager of Conservation for Development at Conanp; Beatriz Manrique Guevara, President of the Committee on Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Natural Resources at the Chamber of Representatives; Eduardo Enrique Murat Hinojosa, President of the Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee of the Senate;Jean-Baptiste Sabatié, Regional Director of the French Development Agency; and to all those involved in the ADVC where Terra Peninsular participated.