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Washington, D.C., Conservation efforts targeting threatened high-altitude forests in the Andes Mountains near the sacred, ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, Peru, will benefit from a new $2 million endowment fund established by Fondo de las Américas del perú (FONDAM), Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund (GCF), Conservation International – Perú, and American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The endowment fund will disburse funds for projects to conserve Polylepis woodlands beginning in 2012.
Polylepis is a genus of trees and shrubs unique to the Andes of South America. Conserving Polylepis forests is crucial for protecting biodiversity and water sources for nearby communities. These forests support threatened bird species, including the Royal Cinclodes, White-browed Tit-Spinetail, and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant.
ABC and its Peruvian partner Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) have worked since 2001 with indigenous communities in the Vilcanota Mountains of the Andes to protect and restore high-altitude Polylepis forests on community-owned lands with support from GCF, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Marshall Reynolds Foundation, Inter-American Foundation, and other donors. ECOAN estimates 127 Royal Cinclodes occur in the Vilcanota area out of a global population that may number fewer than 250 individuals.
“The establishment of the first endowment for Private Conservation Areas is great news for Peru. This support will ensure not only the sustainability of these areas, but also the conservation of the biodiversity of such an important ecosystem as Vilcanota, in a collaborative work with local communities,” said Luis Espinel, executive director for Conservation International in Peru.
To date, participating communities have protected over 15,000 acres in seven Private Conservation Areas recognized by the Peruvian national government, with more reserves currently being created. This includes the new 1,897-acre Pampacorral Private Conservation Area at Pampacorral, and the 4,515 acre Qosqoccahuarina Private Conservation Area at Rumira Sondormayo, both of which were approved by the Peruvian government in late April 2011. Over half a million Polylepis saplings and other native species have been planted to restore forests, and many areas have been fenced to protect saplings from grazing animals and promote habitat regeneration.
“The project has benefitted more than 8,000 people in over 20 communities by planting 150,000 trees that provide a sustainable fuel wood supply so they do not need to cut down Polylepis forests to cook,” said Constantino Aucca, President of ECOAN. Aucca added that the project has also provided nearly 6,000 fuel-efficient clay ovens to reduce fuel wood needs, erected solar panels to provide electricity and hot water for washing, aided in the construction of greenhouses to provide healthy food to communities, and funded health and educational services.
ABC and ECOAN have also provided communities with technical assistance to improve pasture management, wool production, textile marketing, and to develop sustainable nature tourism at the Private Conservation Areas. A new visitor center opened this February at Abra Málaga Thastayoc – Royal Cinclodes Private Conservation Area.
“The Vilcanota Reserve Network is an encouraging example of how we can work with local communities to successfully raise living standards while simultaneously benefiting habitat for endangered species,” said ABC Conservation Biologist, Dr. Daniel Lebbin.
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The Fund of the Americas of Peru (FONDAM) is a Peruvian organization with 11 years of experience. It was created by the governments of Peru and the United States of America under the concessional debt reduction framework to promote activities regarding the sustainable development of the environment, forest conservation, child protection and human development.
Conservation International (CI) — Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987, CI has headquarters in the Washington, DC area, and nearly 900 employees working in more than 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world. For more information, visit www.conservation.org, and follow us on Twitter: @ConservationOrg or Facebook: www.facebook.com/conservation.intl
Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN, www.ecoanperu.org ) is a leading Peruvian conservation organization specializing on working with local communities to establish and manage protected areas.
American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org) conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity in the bird conservation movement. ABC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization that is consistently awarded a high rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.