The Sierra de Alamos Reserve
Nature and Culture International (NCI) is conserving some of the last and best tropical deciduous forest habitat in North America in Alamos, Mexico. Long ago, tropical deciduous forests stretched from Northern Mexico through Central America. Today, less than 15% of this biologically diverse ecosystem remains and only 1% of that total has been put aside for conservation.
NCI’s 14,000 acre Reserva Monte Mojino (ReMM) is a conservation effort focused on acquiring and protecting the best remaining tropical deciduous forest (TDF) in southern Sonora, in conjunction with local communities. The forests in this area are the northernmost tropical deciduous forest in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the three key areas in Sonora important for the conservation of the jaguar. Among ecologists and botanists, it is considered one of the least fragmented, most biologically diverse examples of TDF. NCI’s long-term goal is to expand the reserve to include 25,000-37,500 acres of spectacular scenery and species-rich tropical dry forest, creating a large private nature reserve in the Sierra Madre just East of Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. This will conserve some of the last and best tropical dry forest habitat in North America – an ecosystem as fully endangered as tropical rainforests.
Reserva Monte Mojino (ReMM) lies within the Sierra de Álamos-Río Cuchujaqui Area of Protection of Flora and Fauna (Alamos Federal Reserve), a federally protected area established in 1996 of about 247,000 acres. This area was established with the help of residents of Alamos and covers the watershed of the Cuchujaqui River, a nearly pristine tributary of the Rio Fuerte (the headwaters of which have been made famous by the Barranca del Cobre railroad).
The ultimate purpose of NCI’s project is to protect tropical deciduous and montane forests by placing them in permanent conservation status. Although this land is within a zone designated for protection by the Mexican government, almost all of the reserve is currently privately owned, except for the upper slopes of the Sierra de Alamos itself. Under Mexican law, the private land within the Alamos Federal Reserve is subject to only minimal ecosystems management, which means overgrazing and even land clearing continue despite its conservation designation.
The Alamos area contains the northernmost tropical deciduous forest in the Americas; and also extends in elevation into Mexican oak-pine woodland. Conserving the tropical deciduous forest is a top priority, as this ecosystem is both highly species-rich and endangered. It once extended in a continuous band from Sonora to southern Central America, but only 15% of it remains intact, mostly in Sonora and Sinaloa.
The Sierra de Alamos is important habitat for the jaguar and four other cat species, and also houses military macaws, laughing falcons and many endemic bird species restricted to western Mexico. It is a migratory corridor for birds, where almost all passerines migrating westward travel through NW Mexico. The area is also one of the best sites for plant diversity in Sonora (approximately 1,200 species), and preliminary trips have led to the discovery of numerous new plant species for Sonora, including several tree and orchid species found nowhere else in the state, herpetofauna, and several butterflies. In fact, 60% of the plant species in the tropical deciduous forest are endemic to Mexico.
Proposed Conservation Actions
NCI’s current priorities are to increase ReMM by purchasing and conserving an additional 11,000-25,000 acres, and to support the national park service (CONANP), which aims to improve management of the whole reserve. Nature and Culture International currently owns about 14,000 acres and hopes to buy more land from willing sellers at about US $70 an acre.
Local ranchers and neighbors are being integrated into the conservation work being done at the ReMM and starting to see its significance in their community. Conservation is a new concept in this region and part of NCI’s work is to help the local people see its importance for both the environment and their quality of life, In fact, four ranchers were trained and hired this year as rangers and local neighbors have assisted with research projects that support the management of the reserve. The new reserve will also provide new environmental educational opportunities through public schools, and encourage expansion of ecotourism.
NCI is working in collaboration with the Mexican non-profit, Naturaleza y Cultura Sierra Madre A.C. and in partnership with research organizations such as the San Diego Zoo, the Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science, Technology Institute of Sonora, the University of Michoacan and the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas.
DONATIONS TO DATE:
Project Goal: $70,000
Amount Raised: $30,000
LOCATION: Sierra de Alamos, Sonora, Mexico
KEY SPECIES: Laughing Falcon, Military Macaw, Jaguar (occasional), Ocelot, Sinaloan cichlid; endemic Orchids; etc.
HABITAT: Tropical Deciduous Forest
THREATS: Overgrazing from cattle ranching, agricultural forest clearing
ACTION: Purchase and protection of key private properties
URGENT NEED: $70,000 = 1,000 Acres preserved!