For more than 60 years, the tiny mountainous community of La Trinidad in Mexico eked out an existence from logging ancient pine, oak and cypress forests – back-breaking work that endangered the pumas, jaguars, and ocelots which once ran wild here.
These wonderfully diverse forests, 2,000 metres above sea level in the Sierra Gorda Mountains, were given to a handful of Nahua indigenous families in the 1930s in post-revolution land reforms. But the campesinos (subsistence farmers) started selling the precious timber because their staple food, maize, doesn’t grow so high up.
In 2000, the loggers put down their axes after the NGO Sierra Gorda Ecological Group offered to pay them for environmental services. The 20 families are paid to protect the remaining 2,000 acres of forest, which captures rain water, helps control temperatures, and provides sanctuary for the wild cats.
Nature-lovers can now stay in rustic cabins and explore the stunning woodlands and fossil-filled limestone mountains with ex-loggers turned guides. Right now, the trees are sparkling with vibrant red bromeliads; in the summer this is one of the best places in Mexico to see wild orchids. It’s a genuine oasis: there is no electricity or telephone signal, and the meals are simple home cooked dishes like fried turkey eggs, beans and stuffed tortillas.
Satellite images show that the forest is recovering, and some lucky walkers spotted a jaguar and puma earlier this year. But a bark beetle plague linked to global warming is killing the pines, a threat much too big for this small army of conservationists.Reuse content