Through a combination of old-fashioned protection, cutting-edge science, and innovative partnerships, we are helping to safeguard some of the region’s most iconic places, from the sun-soaked coasts of Baja California to the windswept grasslands of Patagonia.
A Milestone in Freshwater Protection
Ecuador is emerging as a global leader in championing water security through its groundbreaking Water Protected Areas (WPA) initiative. These remarkable areas that protect vital water sources also preserve Ecuador’s unparalleled biodiversity and rich cultural heritage and lay the foundation for sustainable development within local communities.
The genesis of these water protected areas can be traced back to the passionate efforts of the Indigenous A’i Cofán community of Sinangoe, in north-east Ecuador’s Amazonian rainforest. Faced with more than 50 mining concessions that threatened their primary water sources, they boldly appealed to the government for their revocation. Wider Guaramag, the A’i Cofán community president, explains the profound connection to their ancestral lands, stating, “Our fight to protect the waters comes straight from our hearts, as we know that we are protecting our very lives.”
In response to this urgent call, the Ecuadorian government joined forces with TNC, receiving support from Conservation International and the Andes Amazon Fund. Their collaboration resulted in the establishment of five protected areas between late 2022 and early 2023. Spanning an impressive 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles) of rivers and encompassing 2,8a00 hectares (6,918 acres) of wetlands, these new water protection areas safeguard essential water sources that cater to the needs of nearly 174,000 individuals. Looking ahead, Ecuador aims to more than double the size of its water protected area network by 2025.
The global significance of these WPAs cannot be overstated, particularly against the backdrop of alarming statistics. With nearly one-third of the world’s freshwater ecosystems already vanished, and a staggering 83% decline in freshwater species since 1970, Ecuador’s commitment to advancing water security through protected areas serves as a powerful inspiration to the world. It reinforces the critical role that collaboration and environmental stewardship play in safeguarding our most precious natural resources.
Protecting an Epic Migration
In the Amazon River basin, the Dorado catfish undertakes the world’s longest freshwater migration, from spawning grounds in the Andes to the Amazon Delta. This awe-inspiring journey, however, comes with inherent risks as the development of hydropower in the basin poses a significant threat to the catfish, which relies on open, free-flowing rivers for its survival. By gaining insights into the migration routes and identifying critical habitats the catfish requires throughout its various life phases, we can make informed decisions about the strategic placement of hydropower development and minimize the negative impacts on this remarkable species and maintain the delicate balance of nature in the Amazon. A new documentary by TNC follows the remarkable migration of the Dorado Catfish throughout the Amazon Basin, showcasing its profound relationship with the river, communities, the lush forests that lines its path. Through stunning cinematography and expert narration, the documentary captures the essence of this incredible journey and emphasizes the utmost importance of preserving free-flowing rivers and underscores the urgent need for increased freshwater conservation in the Amazon. Watch it HERE.
Debt Burden Turned into Conservation Gains
Belize launched a five-year Marine Spatial Plan for all of Belize’s oceans as part of the 2021 Blue Bond transaction that released USD $180 million for protecting 30% of the country’s marine systems by 2026. The plan—a conservation commitment milestone—was crafted in partnership with TNC and with participation of representatives from the nation’s commercial fishing and tourism industries. It comprises a public, inclusive and participatory process through which stakeholders will determine the optimal distribution of human activities across marine areas to achieve the country’s ecological, economic, and social objectives. The process received recognition for its innovative conservation approach from Environmental Finance, a reputable news source on sustainable investment and green finance.
“The Belize Blue Bond is a triple win for Belize! It resulted in the reduction of our public debt by 12 percent of GDP, the advancement of conservation and climate policy expansion and the creation of a long-term financing mechanism to support marine conservation and the wise use of our Blue Natural Capital… We are determined to employ a framework that results in a vibrant and robust blue economy contributing meaningfully to our national economy and the welfare of our citizens”
Prime Minister John Briceño
Nature-Based Tourism Meets Conservation
TNC and Explora, a prestigious tourism company operating in remote areas of South America, have joined forces to safeguard the stunning Chilean Patagonia through their collaboration in a new private protected area: Torres del Paine Conservation Reserve. Covering 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres), the reserve is privately owned but open to the public. It will be legally protected under a Chilean law conservation agreement (Derecho Real de Conservación) granted to TNC, who will develop a conservation management plan for the area. Explora will oversee the project’s design, management, promotion, and financial sustainability. The ultimate goal is to positively impact the entire Torres del Paine biosphere reserve, which encompasses more than 700,000 hectares (1.7 million acres) of pristine Patagonian landscapes, including the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park. The unique alliance between TNC and Explora sets precedent for future collaborations between the private sector and conservation organizations to create long-term sustainable solutions for the preservation of our planet’s iconic landscapes. Read more