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Mexico - Saving some of the last and best preserved tropical dry forest habitat in North America

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Our Mexico Program

Conservation of Endangered Tropical Deciduous Forest at Sierra de Alamos

At Alamos, NCI is purchasing and conserving some of the last and best tropical dry forest habitat in North America – an ecosystem as endangered as tropical rainforests. Tropical dry forests formerly stretched from northern Mexico through Central America but this biologically diverse ecosystem has lost 85% of its extent, with only 1% designated under conservation.

Purchase endangered tropical deciduous forest in Sierra de Alamos, Mexico.

  • US $40 = 1 acre of beautiful forest
  • US $4,000 = 100 acres
  • US $40,000 = 1,000 acres
  • US $1,000,000 = 25,000 acres

Project Description

NCI is working to buy 10,000 - 25,000 acres of spectacular scenery and species-rich forest

NCI's Sierra de Alamos project is working to buy 10,000 - 25,000 acres of spectacular scenery and species-rich tropical dry forest and pine-oak habitat to create a large private nature reserve called Rancho Ecológico Monte Mojino in the Sierra de Alamos in Sonora, Mexico. Once the acquisitions are complete, a small staff will manage the reserve for conservation purposes and implement community and educational programs with the help of an active group of local residents interested in conservation. We are working with the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, the San Diego Zoo, and the Wildlands Network - Spine of the Continent Project at this exceptional site.

The Sierra de Alamos and Arroyo Cuchujaqui Area of Protection of Flora and Fauna [the Alamos Reserve] is a federal protected area established in 1996 of about 247,000 acres in the Sierra Madre of Sonora. This area was established by residents of Alamos, particularly its then-mayor. It covers much of 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). It is an area of spectacular scenery and species-rich forests.

NCI’s goal is to protect tropical dry and montane forests within the Sierra de Alamos and place 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 Sierra de Alamos is subject to only minimal ecosystems management, which means overgrazing and even land clearing continue despite its conservation designation. The purpose of this project is to purchase private lands and to place them in permanent conservation ownership.

Biological Values

The Alamos Reserve contains the northernmost Tropical Deciduous Forest in the Americas; the Reserve also extends in elevation into Mexican oak-pine woodland. Conserving the tropical dry 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.

Fortunately, the tropical forest near Alamos is in excellent ecological health. The watershed of the Cuchujaqui River is nearly pristine, and although most of the surrounding land has been grazed, it has not been significantly degraded by cattle. The proposed private reserve aims to preserve much of this relatively undisturbed land, with a particular focus on conserving two canyons (Arroyo Verde and Arroyo Santa Barbara) that are so lush that they probably qualify as semi-evergreen tropical forest; unique in Sonora.

In general, biodiversity increases exponentially as one moves from temperate regions such as the continental United States towards the equator, with the majority of species found in the tropics. The species-rich forests of the tropics essentially begin in Sonora and their influence can be seen in resident species such as the military macaw and jaguar. In addition, Mexico is unusually diverse due to its topography, with many species endemic to western Mexico, in the Sierra Madre and the Pacific lowland forests. The Sierra de Alamos preserve hosts the northernmost known nesting pair of solitary eagles, as well as laughing falcons and many of the endemic bird species restricted to western Mexico. The Cuchujaqui River probably still harbors the Sinaloan cichlid, a fish which is severely endangered in most of its range by introduced tilapia. The area is also one of the best sites for plant diversity in Sonora, 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, as well as new reptiles and herpetofauna, and several butterflies.

Proposed Conservation Activities

NCI’s current priorities are to establish a private reserve by purchasing and conserving between 10,000 and 25,000 acres, and to support CONANP, the national park service, which aims to improve management of the whole reserve. Nature and Culture International currently owns about 8,000 acres, and hopes to buy more land from willing sellers at about US$40 an acre. Several of these properties have structures that could be made suitable for a visitation or research, by adding solar electricity and wells.

Alamos residents and area ranchers are enthusiastic about the reserve, and some former ranchers have expressed an interest in working as guides, caretakers, or naturalists. The new reserve will raise environmental awareness in Alamos, provide new environmental educational opportunities through public schools, and encourage expansion of ecotourism.

Another cooperating organization is the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, which for many years has conducted extensive studies on the tropical forests in the Alamos region. The Museum intends to continue these research activities and also plans to establish a research station to further facilitate the study of this region. Both the San Diego Zoo and the Wildlands Network - Spine of the Continent Project are also collaborating with us to conserve this spectacular region.

Please purchase acres now to protect the Sierra de Alamos.



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