La Paz, BCS, Mexico is the hub of environmental activity on the Baja Peninsula. Several of the major international and U.S.-based environmental non-government organizations (NGOs) have offices here, in addition to several Baja- and La Paz-focused NGOs. From local to international, here’s a quick overview:
Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajá – Led by our friend executive director Meredith de la Garza, Niparaja is a La Paz-based, NGO whose mission is “to perpetuate the natural assets that distinguish Baja California Sur, as a result of actions by consensus and with scientific basis, for the benefit of local communities, and present and future generations. , is a friend. With a staff of ~20, probably the largest conservation staff in La Paz, they work in three policy areas and offer various opportunities for volunteer engagement:
- Marine Conservation: Our purpose is to preserve marine and coastal areas ecologically important, as well as key marine resources in the Gulf of California and in the Pacific Ocean. To achieve this, we work closely with fishing communities, other resources users and with various social, private and government institutions.
- Land Conservation: The objectives of the program are: to protect key coastal and desert habitats in Baja California Sur and promote the development of a rural economy, based in environmental and social opportunities in the region and where its central values will be environmental sustainability and the wellbeing of the communities.
- Water: We are beginning a new phase in the program, mainly focused in promoting a more sustainable water management. The first phase of this program looks up to promote an integrated management of the watershed of La Paz.
Raíz De Fondo -Raíz De Fondo is “a civil association that provides educational opportunities to enhance the quality of life in communities through community, nutrition gardens, promoting sustainable living, community empowerment and resilience. Three community gardens established in La Paz serve as our platform to achieve this mission. Before vacant lots, these urban oasis now provide resilient space for cultivating gardens and build community links. The activities undertaken include training for teachers, gardening classes, healthy cooking practices, communication, and dissemination techniques and water conservation school visits.” I really like what they’re trying to do in the La Paz community — seems like such a smart idea to turn vacant lots into gardens that can generate healthy food and community links, as well as save people money.
El Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, A.C. (FMCN) – The Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN) is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization and is the first environmental endowment fund in Mexico. FMCN’s mission is financially support and strengthen efforts for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in Mexico. The idea for FMCN was born in 1992 during the United Nations Conference for the Environment and Development held in Río de Janerio, Brazil. During the processes surrounding this event, representatives of national and international conservation organizations and Mexico’s environmental authorities identified the necessity to establish a permanent, autonomous organization that would guarantee stable, long term financing for biodiversity conservation. In addition, this organization would have the capacity to raise funds from diverse national and international sources to support biodiversity conservation projects in Mexico. The governments of Mexico and the United States left the Río Conference having made commitments to donate to an endowment fund for such an initiative. FMCN maintains a small office in La Paz.
Pronatura Noroeste – “Pronatura Noroeste is the regional chapter of the National Pronatura System, Mexico’s longest-standing and largest conservation organization. Pronatura Noroeste operates since 1991 in the northwestern part of the country, where economic activities depend greatly on the natural richness of the states it encompasses.” It runs seven environmental programs:
- Marine conservation and sustainable fishing
- Land conservation
- Bird conservation
- Water and wetland conservation
- Support for natural protected areas
- Protection and recovery of threatened species
- Education for conservation
NOS Noroeste Sustentable, A.C. – NOS is a civil society organization whose members are intended to contribute to the development of sustainable communities in northwestern Mexico, a privileged space for its richness and beauty, both natural and cultural, as expressed in his deserts, coasts and seas.For US, it is essential to empower the actors to create and simultaneously and efficient dissemination of wealth, values, knowledge and beauty. NOS maintains a small office in La Paz.
Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) – COBI is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the conservation of marine biodiversity in coastal communities of Mexico through community participation. COBI maintains a small office in La Paz.
Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA) – CEMDA (or in English the “Mexican Center for Environmental Law”) is a nonpartisan civic organization established in 1993 to promote the right to a healthy environment and environmental protection. CEDMDA files lawsuits and other legal actions against illegal activities and is also involved in advocating for better environmental policies.
Ecology Project International – Started by Julie Osborne, a friend of my wife from Stanford, and her partner Scott Pankratz, EPI offers field science and cultural exchange programs for students in Baja, Belize, Costa Rica, the Galapagos, and Yellowstone. Here is La Paz they offer programs on Baja island ecology, whale research, turtle and sea lion ecology, and other topics. They also offer eco-tours for adults and families.
EPI is an education and student group travel non-profit dedicated to developing field science partnerships between local experts and high school students to address critical conservation issues worldwide. Our student group travel programs engage youth from local communities and the United States in conservation as they learn how to conduct field science research and actively help protect threatened species and habitats.
Gulf of California Marine Program – The Gulf of California Marine Program at SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography (SIO) University of California San Diego is a team of scientists, students, and professionals from multiple disciplines and institutions who are dedicated to generating and disseminating scientific information that has a direct, positive impact on conservation and resource management issues in the Gulf of California region, Mexico. Program members are devoted to generating the highest-quality research in the fields of marine ecology, taxonomy and biodiversity, fisheries science, socioeconomics, marine spatial planning, and climate change. The group seeks to synthesize new and existing knowledge, emphasize science on coastal and marine ecosystems, and inform policies that promote sustainability in the region. The Program maintains a small office in La Paz.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – EDF, where I once worked and where my wife currently works, runs its Mexico Ocean Program out of La Paz. Our friend Laura Rodriguez heads up EDF’s efforts to “save fisheries in the Gulf of California using catch shares,” a market-based conservation program. Like WWF, EDF is largely policy-focused, which means it works directly with different constituencies, such as fishermen, governmental agencies, and other interests groups, on public education, advocacy, government regulations and legislation.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – TNC’s mission is “to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.” They have made their mark as a “conservation land trust,” that is, an organization that buys private land and either manages it for conservation values or transfers it to a public agency to do the same. TNC has quite a few land-based initiates underway on the Baja Peninsula:
The Nature Conservancy and partners are embarking on an initiative to strengthen and expand marine and terrestrial protected areas and mobilize political will and large-scale, sustainable funding to support conservation. Together, these actions will protect a mosaic of habitats for the animals, plants and nearly 10 million people whose well-being hinges on a healthy ecosystem.
The Conservancy is working with partners to conserve the peninsula’s desert and mountain landscapes by strengthening the management of 5.1 million hectares of existing parks, establishing 1.7 million hectares of new parks, and improving protection on at least 10,000 hectares of private and communal lands.
In the northern part of the peninsula, the Conservancy is protecting important examples of mediterranean habitat:
- San Quintín Bay—located on the Pacific coast of Baja California—the largest and only intact coastal lagoon system in North America’s mediterranean zone.
- The 5,000-hectare Constitución de 1857 National Park in the Sierra Juárez mountain range, with large, ephemeral lake surrounded by mountain meadows and pine forest and unique residents such as the endangered arroyo toad and quino checkerspot butterfly.
- The 63,000-hectare Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park—home to bald eagle, California condor, mountain lion, lynx, bighorn sheep and 15 endemic plant species
In all three places, the Conservancy is working with U.S. and Mexican partner organizations to improve park management, secure conservation easements on nearby private properties and develop a comprehensive conservation plan for the area.
In the northern part of the peninsula, the Conservancy has been helping to promote—together with local partner Niparajá—the declaration of Sierra de la Giganta as a new federal park. Such a decree would conserve nearly 60 percent of the state of Baja California Sur. In the southern portion of the proposed park, the 82-mile-long San Cosme-Punta Mechudo Corridor is the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the state. With Niparajá, the Conservancy is working to acquire and put conservation easements on key coastal properties. So far, more than 4,000 hectares have been protected.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – One of the “big three” international NGOs (the others being The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International). With a variety of programs in the Southern North American ecoregion, they maintain a small office on the Malecón, which I assume helps to coordinate their eco-tours and advocate for conservation interests in the ecoregion.
WWF works to ensure that the Gulf remains a healthy and productive marine area that can support local communities as well as the abundant wildlife within and near its waters. We have helped create several protected areas within the Gulf, and have worked to protect areas such as Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park from any future coastal development.