Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in the heart of Mexico

The Sierra Gorda is a unique transition zone between three bio-regions and varied altitudes, every ecosystem of megadiverse Mexico is found there, except for the marine.

The only Biosphere Reserve in Mexico to be decreed in response to widespread local consensus - in May 1997, one third of Queretaro State became a federal protected area incorporating 640 communities and 93,000 people within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, the second most-populated protected area in the country.

Conservation takes place on private property that constitutes 97% of the 1 million acres (384,567 hectares)of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.

The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is the largest natural protected area in Mexico managed through invested community participation.

Partnering with the local population to protect biodiversity Sierra Gorda´s rich mountains and narrow valleys are home to over 600 communities living in extreme poverty and a marked lack of employment alternatives.
Dependent on poor subsistence crops and livestock and remittances from the USA, the lack of skills and resources has led to the imminent degradation of these sanctuaries.
Without opportunities for making a living locally, the most enterprising individuals, mostly men and even whole families (an estimated 40% of the regional population), continue to risk their lives and leave their families for gainful employment in the United States, thus unraveling the local socioeconomic and socio-cultural fabric of this rural region.

Long live Sierra Gorda

The roots of the matter

Sierra Gorda's rich mountains and narrow valleys are in the hands of communities living in extreme poverty that, while aware of their interdependence with Nature, lack the skills and the resources to arrest the imminent degradation of these sanctuaries and return them to health.

Without opportunities for employment the most enterprising individuals, mostly men and even whole families, continue to risk their lives and leave their families for gainful employment in the United States, thus unraveling the local socioeconomic and socio-cultural fabric of this mountainous region.

Long Term Achievements in Sierra Gorda

  1. Active local participation and inter-institutional coordination for sustainability
    Eighteen years of sustainable community environmental education has produced:people on the grass with a banner
    • Generations of residents who are aware, concerned, and actively involved in adopting habits and skills that benefit the environment: recycling glass, PET plastic and carton, household self-sufficiency, etc.
    • Public policy influenced through widespread local demand for sustainable public works and denunciation of environmental crimes
      Increased self-esteem in rural women through capacity-building and alternative income activities.
    • Successful collaborations to access federal monies and carry out appropriate rural projects to improve residents' quality of life
  2. Development and management of sustainable resources
    For two decades the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) and the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve had provided on-going training, partnering, and co-investments to resource-poor private property owners, ejidos, and informal groups of producers for:
    • Regulated logging and reforestation
    • Holistic forestry management
    • Forest fire prevention and control
    • Wood and non-wood micro enterprise development
    • Forestry disease control

    In 2001 a local partner, Bosque Sustentable A.C., was founded and continues to carry out these and related economic development activities.
    Long Term Achievements in Sierra Gorda

  3. Public-Private Partnerships and Interstate Collaborations
    The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda have joined to form an innovative government-civil society sector administrative partnership.
    For the first time in Mexico's history neighboring states that form part of the Sierra Gorda bioregion are responding to the visible benefits accrued to the environment and communities of the Biosphere Reserve by requesting federal approval to extend natural protected areas status to an area doubling the size of the original Sierra Gorda Reserve.