By Jorge Luis Basave Castillo
This article was translated by Amairani Márquez and Manuel Eduardo Mendoza
Few doubt about the biocultural diversity of Mexico and the importance of urgently encouraging sustainable development. What is less known is that most of the natural resources of Mexico are on socially and privately owned lands, which requires a joint effort between society and government to build a viable future.
By 2019 Mexico managed to decree 11.13% of its land area as Natural Protected Areas. However, conserving territory under presidential decree is increasingly complicated and expensive. On the other hand, conservation from the beginning is a model that is more feasible because it is based on the will of people.
Voluntary conservation implies dialogue and the participation of multiple stakeholders in decision-making processes (for example, ejidal or communal lands), which contribute to strengthening the social system and governance in the country.
As a result, the challenge is to establish trust relationships and design land management schemes that ensure sustainable development.
What are Areas Voluntarily Destined for Conservation?
Areas Voluntarily Destined for Conservation (ADVC in Spanish) are Natural Protected Areas under the jurisdiction of the federal government established by a certificate that recognizes the willingness of the owners to sustainably manage their properties.
Today, we have 371 certified areas that represent more than half a million hectares (that is, over 1 million acres) in 26 states of Mexico. More than 84,000 people participated in the certification process, including small landowners, legal entities, municipalities, communities, and common lands. In Baja California there are 11 certified areas in this category.
The Conanp has proposed to integrate, under a unified landscape management scheme, additional hectares as Areas Voluntarily Destined for Conservation to conserve the biocultural diversity of Mexico, encourage biological corridors and increase connectivity among existing Natural Protected Areas.
The landscape approach allows creating connectivity between landscape units, maintaining ecological processes, reducing fragmentation and isolation of ecosystems and contributing to the long-term survival of species and communities.
In other words, it’s about conserving more land involving all existing Natural Protected Areas, so that flora and fauna have more opportunities to survive.
To meet the challenge, the implementation of a long-term strategy and coordination between the three levels of government, civil society, private and financial sector, as well as national and international organizations is needed.
The strengthening of ADVCs in Mexico should be seen as a national security issue because, among other benefits, they reduce climate change, improve the quality and quantity of water and provide ecosystem services for productive activities. On the other hand, because the certification process is based on dialogue, they strengthen the social system and local governance.
Among the benefits for the landlords is the protection that an ADVC provides, being a federal Natural Protected Area, infrastructure, public works, mining and extraction of hydrocarbons projects would be subject to the same approval rules of projects in any other federal Natural Protected Area in the country.
The social-environmental challenges that we face in Mexico require alliances and coordination among society, organizations, and government in the three levels.
For this reason, the work of civil society organizations is critical in the process of accompanying decision-making landowners, since they can serve as a bridge between public policy and the needs of the population, as well as providing technical support.
The strengthening and expansion of the ADVCs, under an integrated landscape management approach, should serve to advance in building a viable future where society and government are co-responsible for the construction of a sustainable development for Mexico.