About the Campaign
The lagoon is part of a 248-mile coastline wetland complex that contains mangroves, estuaries, intertidal and salt flats, and provides critical habitat for sea turtles, migratory birds and fish. Due to its ecological importance, Laguna San Ignacio is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Biosphere Reserve and Whale Sanctuary.
Despite international and national protection designations, in 1994, the Mexican government announced its approval of a plan to build the world's largest salt factory on the shores of Laguna San Ignacio. The proposed project had a massive footprint of 116 square miles of salt extraction ponds and a 1.2-mile long pier right into the path of migrating whales. Local communities feared the adverse impact on their natural resources, health and livelihoods from fishing and ecotourism.
In March 2000, after a 5-year international campaign by a coalition of the lagoon's communities and environmental organizations, the industrial salt project was canceled in favor of a sustainable approach to development in the lagoon. Since the campaign, numerous conservation and community development organizations have collaborated with local residents to create sustainable economic opportunities and to improve the quality of life for those living in a remote natural protected area.
At the helm of these efforts is a coalition of US and Mexican non-governmental organizations known as the Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance. The goal of the Alliance is two-fold: to protect the ecological integrity of the lagoon and to safeguard the livelihoods of fishermen and ecotourism operators forever. The Alliance, along with other conservation and community organizations, have made significant investments in the lagoon that have provided direct and indirect benefits to local residents.
In 2005, the International Community Foundation (ICF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Pronatura Noroeste A.C. and Wildcoast/Costasalvaje joined forces with local communities to form the Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance (LSICA or "the Alliance"). The goal of the Alliance is to provide permanent protection for Laguna San Ignacio and its gray whales. The Alliance uses three key approaches:
- Protecting 500,000 acres of key lands around the lagoon through conservation easements, direct purchases and enhanced federal protections
- Promoting sustainable economic development and environmental stewardship in the communities around the lagoon by supporting local landowners and environmentally-sound businesses
- Monitoring and removing specific threats to sustainable development in the area, such as large-scale industrialization projects
The Laguna San Ignacio region includes four distinct estuary sites, intertidal mudflats, mangroves, salt flats, sand dunes, and a halophytic vegetated coastal plain intersected by densely vegetated arroyos. The wetland complex and watershed extends across six ejidos and federally-owned lands that provide critical habitat for birds, sea turtles, gray whales, and commercially-harvested fish species. In fact, Estero El Coyote and Laguna San Ignacio are two of Baja California Sur's most important mangrove habitats for endangered sea turtles. The Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance is using a variety of conservation tools to protect the lagoon's shoreline, marine areas, and inland priority areas:
- conservation easements on privately-held and communally-held lands,
- land acquisition,
- protection of the federal maritime zone (ZOFEMAT),
- environmental management of federally-owned lands (unidad de manejo ambiental), and
- land use planning.
To date, the Alliance and local landowners have added protection to over 339,000 acres of sensitive lands around Laguna San Ignacio. Please click here to support the Alliance's long term conservation efforts in Laguna San Ignacio or click to support Pronatura Noroeste and Costasalvaje, the organizations working on-the-ground with local landowners.
Working with Partners
In addition to the Alliance, a broad range of US and Mexican foundations and non-profit organizations have supported local residents across a wide array of projects – from improving local schools and access to healthcare to providing loans to start businesses or upgrade boat motors. Groups working in Laguna San Ignacio:
Other Project Supporters:
Local Collaborators:To join the Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance in helping to protect hundreds of thousands of additional acres of habitat for gray whales and sea turtles, please click here.