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Designing The Regional Conservation System For The Cusco Region, Peru

Description: 

In Cusco, Peru, although there have been initiatives in establishing protected areas (currently 11% of the territory is protected), many fragile ecosystems are yet to be protected. However, many conservation initiatives have been undertaken by players that are not aware of the efforts by other players in many cases undermining the whole cause of nature conservation by creating conflicts. To determine priority conservation areas there’s been a definition of 177 Key Biodiversity Areas; based on the spatial pattern of these areas, several appropriate conservation initiatives have been proposed, with a strong focus on sustainable management for the benefit of local people. Then, it was established that all conservation players should coordinate efforts in conservation; the emphasis came into avoiding conflict and in enhancing cooperation between the state government, the national conservation and forestry agencies, the conservation NGOs and private initiatives. The goal become into conservation of areas with cooperation of players. In 2012 a Regional Ordinance (the highest law that could be legislated at the region level) was approved that made official the approach of coordinated conservation between all agencies and organizations, with the name of Regional Conservation System. The definition of the 177 Key Biodiversity Areas and the redefinition of the priorities became instrumental in developing new conservation initiatives that required work among several players.

Specific elements of components: 

In Peru, the Cusco Region (one of the 24 Regions that constitute the country) has an extension of 72,364.00 Km2 inside the Tropical Andes hotspot, ranging from the Amazon lowlands in the Lower Urubamba basin at 500 m of altitude, to the high Andean grasslands and snow mountains over 6000 m, having in between a diverse array of biomes and ecosystems (montane grasslands and shrublands, dry and humid tropical forests, highland wetlands and mountain streams and lakes), with high diversity of species and landscapes. All this area has a long history of human interventions that has shaped many ecosystems, but from the 20th century on, there’s been an increase of land change, resources overexploitation and pollution that is endangering many of the most diverse ecosystems.
Although there have been initiatives in establishing protected areas (currently 11% of the territory is located inside any of IUCN’s categories of protected areas), many fragile ecosystems are yet to be protected. However, many conservation initiatives have been undertaken by players that are not aware of the efforts by other players – for example, the state government promoted regional conservation areas that are at odds with private conservation initiatives promoted by conservation NGOs – in many cases undermining the whole cause of nature conservation by creating conflicts and confusing the local stakeholders that are addressed in conservation efforts. This lack of coordination slows the rate of creating protected areas (or promoting other conservation categories).

The action taken:
Based on Land Planning surveys undertaken by the State government, there’s been an evaluation of the whole Cusco territory to determine priority conservation areas; an earlier effort prioritized 18 areas, however they were based on an incomplete assessment of local needs. Based on the new evaluation, the first 18 areas have been redefined to include nearby highly biodiverse or fragile ecosystems in need of conservation.
In the next step in planning, based on the existence of endangered dominant species (mainly trees), high populations of wildlife and presence of fragile ecosystems (such as high mountain wetlands), there’s been a definition of 177 Key Biodiversity Areas. Based on the spatial pattern of these areas, several appropriate conservation initiatives have been proposed, with a strong focus on sustainable management for the benefit of local people that live nearby these key areas.
Then, it was established that all conservation players should coordinate efforts in conservation; the emphasis came into avoiding conflict and in enhacing cooperation between the state government, the national conservation and forestry agencies, the conservation NGOs and private initiatives. The goal become into conservation of areas with cooperation of players. To convert this into a planning tool for conservation, it had to be officialized through state legislation, so in 2012 a Regional Ordinance (the highest law that could be legislated at the region level) was approved that made official the reorganization of conservation priorities and the approach of coordinated conservation between all agencies and organizations, with the name of Regional Conservation System, and the future goal of implementing this system with the lead of the State government.

Key lessons learned: 

The creation of conservation landscapes implies now several choices for the local stakeholders when being asked for conserving their lands, and for the conservation planners when deciding a conservation category that is more suitable for the land owners, in effect allowing trade-offs that would allow conservation.
However, the selection of the state government as leader of the System revealed to be a weakness if the officials in charge are changed without having enough time to learn the purpose of the system. In that case, it became evident that the other conservation players (national agencies or NGOs) had to become knowledgeable of the system so it’d continue working.
The definition of the key biodiversity areas attracted attention from other national agencies (for example, the national forestry system could use it to locate fragile ecosystems to be recognized) and other state governments, which could work on their own systems based on these different levels of priorizations and recognizing the need of joint work.

Impacts and outcomes: 

The definition of the 177 Key Biodiversity Areas and the redefinition of the priorities became instrumental in developing new conservation initiatives that required work among several players: priorized areas such as the Urusayhua-Koshireni cloud forest or the Acomayo lakes complex now had more support from NGOs, and another ways of supporting conservation started being considered. The planning of conservation inside buffer zones of established areas now could be more targeted towards the key biodiversity areas; in the case of the Machupicchu region, these areas were the basis to propose the extension of a new proposed Biosphere Reserve to be worked by the national agency of protected areas.
It was also recognized that these key areas could also be worked toward other conservation strategies that aren’t part of the national categorizations, such as Ramsar sites. They can also be combined with other categorizations of resource use (such as timber concessions) to create conservation landscapes.

Contact details: 
Israel Aragon, israelaragon78@hotmail.com
Region: 
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Language: 
English
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