Nature and Culture’s Fall Newsletter

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Welcome to Nature and Culture’s latest conservation update, a direct glimpse into our ongoing efforts across Latin America.

We’re excited to share updates on our latest initiatives and projects, including a 360 view of one of our very first protected areas, the Cazaderos Reserve, a brand new protected area in Bolivia, and amazing avian biodiversity in Peru.

Our commitment to safeguarding the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of this remarkable region remains unwavering, and it is thanks to supporters like you that our projects continue to thrive. Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Real Stories. Real Impact.

In 2007, the municipal government of Loja, Ecuador approved the ordinance for the protection of micro-watersheds and other areas of hydric importance. Updated in 2020, the ordinance was issued for the protection and restoration of water sources, fragile ecosystems, biodiversity and environmental services through the creation and management of the Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area. These local conservation areas protect the natural state of forests, páramos, and other fragile ecosystems, ultimately recovering ecosystem functionality in areas that have been altered in some way.

To date, Loja has 182,858 acres in Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas, of which 71,660 acres are areas of hydric importance or protect local water sources. Areas that were selected were determined a priority for the provision of environmental services, especially water, ecological connectivity, and biodiversity protection.  

Jipiro Ravine, Loja

Nature and Culture has identified 72 water sources which are the primary source of potable water for the province of Loja, 13 of them provide water to the urban sector and 18 areas of hydric importance provide water to the capitals. Some of the areas identified have a high degree of degradation, mainly due to the change of land use due to agricultural activities.   

Map of the 72 sources | Prepared by: Patricio Jaramillo

How local governments support the maintenance of natural ecosystems that provide water to their citizens

José Romero, Nature and Culture’s Coordinator for Areas of Hydric Importance, states that it is a priority to support local governments and establish conservation measures to protect the ecosystems that provide water to population centers. In the province of Loja, this process has been developed together with the Regional Water Fund (FORAGUA) and the Municipal Government, which has recently identified 7 areas of water interest with high priority for intervention: El Sauce, Cachipirca, El Cisne, San Lucas, Chantaco, Taquil, and Tenería. Within these areas, there are 6,819.14 acres of natural forests that store and release water, yet they have been deforested and converted into pastures. The land use has altered significantly, jeopardizing the quantity and quality of water available. 

Tambo Blanco water catchment, Los Leones stream

Faced with these results, the Municipal Government of Loja, as part of the management of water sources, is promoting Conservation Agreements for Water and Forests among the owners of the properties settled in these areas of hydric importance, Water Management Boards, cooperation agencies and the local government.   

These agreements aim to ensure conservation, recover degraded areas and comprehensively manage forests and water resources located in the water sources and Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas of the province. This is part of the process of reversing degradation and recovering ecological functionality, in other words, improving the capacity of water sources in this area.   

Currently, 10 additional conservation agreements have been signed between private owners and Drinking Water Management Boards of the Jimbilla, San Lucas, Taquil, Malacatos parishes and buffer zones of the Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas.   

Ángel Jaramillo, Nature and Culture Project Coordinator, stated that the 10 conservation agreements signed will allow the conservation and recovery of 336.48 acres. They include the active and passive restoration of around 74 acres, through agroforestry systems, silvopastoral systems and block planting of native forest species, which allows ecological succession processes to be carried out; and 262.57 acres of primary and secondary forest are committed to being conserved and maintained. 

Municipal Government Authorities, Water Management Boards, FORAGUA and Nature and Culture International

Francisco Gordillo, technical secretary of FORAGUA, points out that areas that are not covered by native forest erode, degrade, and in the face of climate change, the dragging of sediments into streams and rivers occurs violently, and creates problems at lower elevations including floods and other harmful damage to local populations.   

Gordillo states that for these reasons it is recommended that municipalities have ordinances to conserve and protect nearby ecosystems, and thus reduce the risk and vulnerability to global warming.  In addition, Gordillo points out that, by establishing these ordinances, local governments will be able to count on Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas, and invest economic resources to take care of water sources together with the farmers. In addition, he mentioned that the financial sustainability of this model is based on the environmental tax and on measures to regulate land use and occupation. Above all, he points out that when defining this regulation, incentives should be considered for the owners who reside in the upper parts of the basins, to guarantee the protection of water sources. 

Jipiro Waterfall

Within this cooperation process, Felipe Serrano, Nature and Culture’s Ecuador Country Director, commented that everyone, including aid workers, are moved by the sense of urgency, in his message he expressed his concern about the consequences and effects of climate change, “We do not know what is going to happen, the levels of deforestation in the country maintain the same trend, every year around 247,105.38 acres are deforested in Ecuador and the trend of forest reduction in Loja has been the same, that is, deforestation has not stopped.”   

Likewise, Serrano explained that areas of water importance, such as the micro-basins that supply drinking water and irrigation to the province of Loja, are in a constant process of transformation due to the change in land use.   

Within these global phenomena of climate change and with the transformation of forests, the so-called water buffers and before the announcement of the arrival of the El Niño Phenomenon, Serrano spoke of the uncertainty that the population is going through and raised the following question, “What will happen to the city and the flows of the rivers if we do not have buffer forests?  The only infrastructure that will defend us from these phenomena are the forests and grasslands of the headwaters.”   

Finally, he called for the joint search for mechanisms to protect the natural infrastructure of the forests that provide water and defend us from the onslaught of climate change, collaborations and coordination that must be sustained over time, he stressed. 

Conservation agreements in the ACMUS-Loja

Luís Gutiérrez, president of the Drinking Water Board, San Francisco Belén of the Malacatos parish, mentions that it is essential to protect the environment, in an articulated way with the boards of water administrators, to have drinking water in Lojan homes. “We are 900 users distributed in 11 neighborhoods and thanks to institutions such as FORAGUA, the Municipality of Loja, Nature and Culture International and Andes Amazon Fund, for these agreements that have motivated us to continue protecting and caring for water.” 

Incentives for water boards and private property owners

At the signing event of the conservation agreements for water and forests, Loja Mayor, Franco Quezada Montesinos stated, “We must protect water. We must conserve forests. And this must be done with management and in common agreements with those who take care of water.” The mayor focused on the need to improve institutional work through local, national and international cooperation, to establish comprehensive projects that serve citizens, and pointed out that this management must be carried out honestly and quickly. 

If everyone learned to protect water, we would achieve great changes. That is why mitigating the social and environmental crisis to a large extent is everyone’s task, of citizens in both sectors: urban and rural; landowners in micro-watersheds and communities living near water sources; drinking water boards; and public and private institutions; in addition to international cooperation that allows the consolidation of collective agreements. 

Real Stories. Real Impact.

New protected areas, beekeeping for conservation, and gender equity in reforestation are a few of the stories you’ll explore in our 2023 Spring Newsletter!

Make a donation today to continue supporting projects like these!

As a supporter of Nature and Culture, take a moment to review our impact in 2022! 

Our 2022 Annual Impact Report is a testament to our commitment to community-based conservation. As trailblazers in this field, the well-being of local communities is as important as protecting and conserving natural resources. For us, those go hand in hand.  

Our work is organized into 5 key strategy areas: wild places, climate, water, people, and species. As you read through this report, you’ll see how our team approaches our projects through these lenses, ensuring the long term overall health of the areas we protect. 

Please remember that none of this would be possible without the generous support we’ve received from so many of you!

The Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area of Portovelo was established by its Municipal Government on September 30, 2022. This area is part of the Fierro Urco Water Protection Area and is located at the head of the Puyango River Basin. The area was approved through the Protection and Restoration of Water Sources, Fragile Ecosystems, Biodiversity, and Environmental Services of Portovelo ordinance. It promotes the management of municipal conservation areas and sustainable use that protect 29,305 acres of territory.

Fierro Urco
Fierro Urco Water Conservation Area

The Portovelo Municipal Protected Area conserves páramo grasslands where important rivers such as the Guayabal, Santiago, Tenta, Ambocas, and San Luis are born. The area, therefore, protects and conserves the water sources for the consumption of approximately 13 thousand inhabitants, distributed in three rural parishes: Morales, Curtincapac, and Salatí; and Portovelo, an urban parish.

A major objective in the creation of this area is to initiate strategic work to minimize threats in the reserve and the region, such as deforestation by livestock, agriculture, vegetation burns, and mining concessions. Luís López, Nature and Culture International Project Technician, says that there is a feeling of urgency in the Municipal Government of Portovelo. The hope is to protect and manage the conservation area so that the mining concessions in the area can be faced. These concessions put the water sources of this biodiverse area at risk.

The establishment of this new area in Portovelo together with the Zaruma, Atahualpa, and Piñas protected areas form an ecosystem and biodiverse connectivity corridor in the Puyango river basin. These areas combined cover 154,517 acres of forests, páramos, water sources, and endemic species, including the endangered blue-throated hillstar hummingbird (Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus).

Portovelo Municipal Protected Area
The Portovelo Municipal Protected Area protects and conserves the water sources for the consumption of approximately 13 thousand inhabitants

This declaration is an inter-institutional achievement that began in 2019, after directing permanent coordination between the Municipal Government of Portovelo and the support and advice of Nature and Culture International. As a result of this joint work, the area of conservation, construction of the ordinance, and socialization with the Municipal Council, was delineated for subsequent approval.

In this process, the work led by the Municipal Government of Portovelo, its councilors, and its technical team, with the support of Nature and Culture International, and Andes Amazon Fund, has been fundamental.

Climate change adaptation, species discovery, and newly declared protected areas in Nature and Culture’s latest round-up of news from 2022.

Our strength as an organization lies within the passion of people around the globe who share our same dream. As part of the Nature and Culture community, you help us achieve so much — diverse vibrant cultures; wild places alive with plants and animals, and clean water and other ecosystem services for communities throughout Latin America. Thank you!


On August 31st, 2022 the Santa Elena Provincial Protected Area was approved. The process to establish this area was led by the Provincial Government of Santa Elena and the Sustainable Landscapes Foundation, with support from Nature and Culture and Andes Amazon Fund.


Focusing on water source protection simultaneously preserves sites of hydrologic importance and surrounding biological, and cultural diversity.

Water connects people to conservation.

Access to clean water is a basic human necessity and preserving important water sources is a powerful tool for encouraging overall ecosystem health. Nature and Culture leverages local interest in preserving access to clean, abundant water to drive conservation. Ultimately this leads to the preservation of local biodiversity, nearby forests, ecosystems, and food security for local populations.


In Ecuador, a Water Protection Area (WPA) is a nationally recognized, legally protected territory that conserves these precious water sources.

Protected Water Source
Santa Rosa Water Protection Area was the first WPA in southern Ecuador, declared in Jan., 2021.

WPAs ban exploitative activities, ensuring clean water supplies for local communities and preserving surrounding wildlife.

These areas are established based on their strategic importance as water sources for human consumption and/or to guarantee food security. Once an area achieves this status, it is legally protected from activities like mining and other destructive activities such as unsustainable agricultural practices which can inhibit or drastically limit groundwater stores.

Mining activities can pollute local water sources and destroy nearby ecosystems limiting future water stores.

Early in 2021, Nature and Culture developed a national water protection planning map in coordination with the National Water Authority of Ecuador.

This map establishes areas of hydrologic importance for human consumption and food security in the country.

In order to identify and prioritize areas of water importance, Nature and Culture conducted technical studies using multi-criteria analysis and geographic information systems (GIS) to map the data. 48,368 square miles, primarily in the Sierra (mountain region) and the central and northern Amazon of Ecuador were determined to be of high value for their water resources.

As of the declaration of the Quilanga WPA early this year, we have protected 9 of 10 areas that the Ministry of Environment and Water has invited Nature and Culture to support, with many more in the early planning stages for the near future.

Water Resource Protection Map

Important water sources have been gaining attention due to recent protests in Ecuador. Many Indigenous leaders held a strike to ask the Ecuadorian government to stop all mining concessions near important water sources, among other demands. In June 2022, a peace agreement between the Ecuadorian government and the country’s leading Indigenous organizations was brokered. Part of this agreement proposes a stop to all mining activity in protected areas and ancestral territories, national parks and Water Protection Areas. This is the beginning of an important dialog around environmental policies in favor of all Ecuadorians.

The findings from our Water Protection Area National Planning Map can support discussions between Indigenous leaders and the Minister of Environment to continue to protect remaining areas of high and very high water importance.

Read more on our response to current events in Ecuador here.

New protected areas, bioeconomy projects, environmental education, and some of our largest conservation efforts to date in Nature and Culture’s first round of highlights from 2022.

Nature and Culture International’s strength is in people who share the same dreams: of diverse vibrant cultures; of forests and savannas alive with plants and animals; of clean water and air and a livable climate. 


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On Friday, May 6, 2022, the declaration for the establishment of the Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area of Quilanga was approved. This measure will protect 26,250 acres of native forest and páramos in the province of Loja, Ecuador. This area is of great importance in ensuring the protection of local water sources of the canton and unique species of flora and fauna.

Quilanga Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area Water Source
Quilanga Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area Water Source

This area is habitat for mammals such as the Andean bear, the tigrillo and the mountain tapir. In addition, Quilanga is the area of greatest distribution of the vizcacha. It is the site where most documentation of the species has been done.

This small rodent is endemic to the province of Loja. In fact, this is the only place on the planet where it can be found. “The location maps of the vizcacha populations were used to delineate the borders of this conservation areas,” says Rodrigo Cisneros, a researcher at the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL).

The Vizcacha is a critically endangered mammal endemic to the canton of Quilanga.

The declaration will help protect the home of this rodent, which is critically endangered, according to the Red List of Mammals of Ecuador 2021.

José Romero, Mosaic Coordinator at Nature and Culture International Ecuador, explains that, with this measure, the last remnants of forest and paramo of the canton will also be preserved, as well as important archaeological sites for the country.

Quilanga Municipal Conservation Area

Romero says that this Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area will protect areas of water interest for the largest number of urban and rural population of Quilanga.

Anthropic events, such as fires, are some of the most relevant threats in this area. In 2019, 17,000 acres of forest were burned. Other factors that endanger these ecosystems include the indiscriminate extraction of wood, the change of land use and the expansion of the agricultural frontier.

The creation of the Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area is a step towards protecting the territory from these threats. Nature and Culture has worked with the Municipality of Quilanga since 2020 towards the establishment of this zone through the baseline study and in the delineation of the habitat of the vizcacha and the municipality’s water sources.

The Quilanga Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area also protects bird species such as the sparrowhawk, quillico, hornero or chilalo and tanagers. In addition, there is a wide diversity of flora including the higerón, arupo, guayacán, arabisco and arrayán.

This area joins other conservation areas that exist in the canton such as the Colambo Yacurí Protective Forest that together, contribute to protecting the region’s abundant natural wealth.


Quilanga Establece Una Nueva Área Para Conservar Sus Fuentes De Agua Y Su Biodiversidad

Este viernes 6 de mayo de 2022 se aprobó la declaratoria para el establecimiento del Área de Conservación Municipal y Uso Sostenible de Quilanga. Con esta medida se protegerán 10 623,22 hectáreas de bosque nativo y páramos de la provincia de Loja. Esta zona es de gran importancia para asegurar el cuidado de las fuentes de agua del cantón y de especies de flora y fauna únicas en el mundo.

En esta área se pueden encontrar mamíferos como el oso andino, el tigrillo y el tapir. Además, Quilanga es la zona de mayor distribución de la vizcacha o el sitio donde se han obtenido más registros de esta especie.

Este pequeño roedor es endémico de la provincia de Loja. Es decir, este es el único sitio en el planeta donde se lo puede encontrar. “Justamente para la delimitación de las zonas de conservación se utilizaron los mapas de ubicación de las poblaciones de vizcacha”, cuenta Rodrigo Cisneros, investigador de la Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL).

La declaratoria ayudará a proteger el hogar de este roedor, que se encuentra en peligro crítico de extinción, según la Lista Roja de los Mamíferos del Ecuador 2021.

José Romero, coordinador de Mosaico de Naturaleza y Cultura Internacional (NCI) Ecuador, explica que, con esta medida, también se conservará los últimos remanentes de bosque y páramos del cantón, al igual que sitios arqueológicos importantes para el país.

Romero cuenta que esta ACMUS protegerá áreas de interés hídrico para la mayor cantidad de población urbana y rural de Quilanga.

Los eventos antrópicos, como los incendios, son algunas de las amenazas más relevantes en esta zona. En 2019, se quemaron 7 000 hectáreas de bosque. A esto se suman otros factores que ponen en peligro a estos ecosistemas como la extracción indiscriminada de madera, el cambio de uso de suelo y la expansión de la frontera agrícola.

La creación de las Áreas de Conservación Municipal y Uso Sostenible busca proteger el territorio de sus amenazas. Para el establecimiento de esta zona, desde el 2020 NCI trabaja con el Municipio de Quilanga en el estudio de línea base y en la delimitación del hábitat de la vizcacha y de sus fuentes de agua.

El Área de Conservación Municipal y Uso Sostenible Quilanga también protege a especies de aves como el gavilán, quillico, hornero o chilalo y tangaras. Además, existe una amplia diversidad de flora que incluye al higerón, arupo, guayacán, arabisco y arrayán.

Esta ACMUS se suma a otras zonas de conservación que existen en el cantón como el Bosque Protector Colambo Yacurí que contribuyen a proteger su abundante riqueza natural.

Newly declared Quinllunga de San Simón-Guaranda Water Protection Area secures clean and abundant water supplies for 683 people.

Nature and Culture International has supported the creation of the first Water Protection Area in Bolivar Province, Ecuador. The newly declared Quinllunga de San Simón-Guaranda Water Protection Area protects a total of 1,375 acres and secures clean and abundant water supplies for indigenous Guaranca Kichwa people.  


Thanks to donors like you, there is a new Water Protection Area in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Nature and Culture International has supported the creation of a new Water Protection Area in northern Ecuador! The newly declared Mojanda Water Protection Area conserves 15,066 acres and secures safe and abundant water for 39,000 people.


People from Yacuambi, Ecuador, dreamt of protecting their forest home from mining and other destructive activities for nearly thirty years. Thanks to donors like you, this dream just became reality!

The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition of Ecuador recently declared 73,917 acres of Yacuambi Ecological Reserve as a Decentralized Autonomous Protected Area. This national status provides the reserve with the highest level of legal protection in the country and permanently prevents mining in the area.


Newly declared Garrapata Water Protection Area and Esperanza Chalpatán Water Protection Area secure clean and abundant water supplies for 131,820 people.

Nature and Culture International has supported the creation of two new Water Protection Areas in Ecuador. The newly declared Garrapata Water Protection Area and Esperanza Chalpatán Water Protection Area protect a total of 78,296 acres and secure clean and abundant water supplies for 132,400 people.


New protected areas, species discoveries, and more in Nature and Culture’s latest donor impact report.

Nature and Culture International’s strength is in people who share the same dreams: of diverse vibrant cultures; of forests and savannas alive with birds, plants, and frogs; of clean water and air and a livable climate. Our strength is in 66 local staff and the 275 rural and indigenous communities we collaborate with in Latin America.


Nature and Culture International develops a national map for the protection of water resources for human consumption and food security in Ecuador.

On March 26, 2021, at a ceremony for the newly declared Huambaló La Moya Water Protection Area, Nature and Culture International presented a new map to the Ministry of Environment and Water to support the protection of water resources in Ecuador. The map identifies areas of water importance for human consumption and food security in the country.


To achieve lasting conservation impact, Nature and Culture strategically harnesses the basic human need for clean, abundant water through water funds.

A bright green tree, reaching nearly 200 feet, towers over the dry landscape of southern Ecuador. It’s a ceiba, with green photosynthetic bark that allows the plant to keep growing even when its leaves have dropped.


Today we are glad to share how you made the world a better place in 2020.

As we look back on 2020, what stands out is the extraordinary outpouring of care and community in response to unprecedented challenges. This year highlighted the resilience of the Nature and Culture Community and our shared values of innovation, adaptability, and perseverance. In 2020, that made all the difference!


Thanks to you, a new Water Protection Area conserves 11,527 acres in southern Ecuador.

On Friday, January 22, Ecuador’s National Government declared Santa Rosa Water Protection Area (Santa Rosa), the first Water Protection Area in southern Ecuador, and seventh in the country! Located in the southwestern Andes, in the province of El Oro, the new area protects water sources from the Santa Rosa River, which provides drinking water to more than 80,000 people.


Thanks to you, three new conservation areas protect critical water supplies and extraordinary biodiversity in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Nature and Culture International celebrates the establishment of three Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas in Cuenca, Ecuador! The newly declared Machángara, Mazán, and Curiquingue-Gallocantana Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas (or Cuenca Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Areas) protect 48,277 acres, including water supplies for over 500,000 people in Cuenca and surrounding communities.