Andes Amazon Fund applauds the creation of the ‘Laderas Norte Reserva Natural del Quebracho y el Cóndor en la Cordillera de Laderas,’ in Tarija, Bolivia. On August 24, 2023, the city council of Tarija unanimously approved the creation of a Municipal-Rural Protected Area within the Laderas Norte community, realizing a years-long dream of its residents. With an extension of 8,145 acres (3,296 ha) of southern Bolivian forests, canyons, and valleys, the new reserve presents an opportunity to protect the mighty Andean condor, safeguard native plants and water sources, and improve the quality of life for the over 300 people living in the Laderas Norte community.
Conservation Catalyzed by a Tragedy
In February of 2021, 34 condors (Vultur gryphus) were found dead within the expanse of the Laderas Norte community. It was soon discovered that the condors were killed by eating a poisoned animal—likely the result of farmers attempting to deter wildlife from interfering with their crops and livestock. The death of these iconic birds shocked the Laderas Norte community, and propelled them to seek legal protections for their landscapes and ecosystems to prevent a similar occurrence.
This tragedy was especially incensing due to the importance of the Andean condor to the Bolivian people. The Andean condor is the national bird of Bolivia and plays a protagonistic role in Andean spirituality and identity. The enormous birds are also ecologically critical. As scavengers, they help prevent the spread of disease and bacteria amongst local flora and fauna. Unfortunately, Andean condor populations have faced a rapid decline in the past decade. In December of 2020, the IUCN reclassified the species from “Near Threatened” to “Vulnerable.”
Creating a Conservation Area
This was not the first time the Laderas Norte community had taken steps to conserve their territory. Ten years ago, they donated 141 acres (57 ha) to the municipality of Tarija to protect the last remaining white quebracho forest (Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco) in the central valley of Tarija. Illegal logging of white quebracho, as well as other valuable trees like cedar (Cedrela lilloi), quina (Myroxylon peruiferum), and walnut (Junglas australis), was a constant threat in Laderas Norte and in nearby communities.
Building on their past environmental concerns and reeling from the 2021 tragedy, the people of Laderas Norte worked diligently towards their goal of creating a protected area with the help of the Municipal Government of Tarija and the NGO Nativa Bolivia.
“For 2 and a half years, the community remained steadfast in its decision, and they did so in a very organic way; on the first Sunday of each month, they had their communal meeting, in which we were present on more than 10 occasions, listening to them and witnessing their capacity for engagement…. The project was worked on comprehensively with the approval of the communal assembly, going through three community executives in two and a half years, in all its stages.” said Daniel Lopez, vice president of the Tarija city council.
Protecting What Is, and Fighting for What’s Next
After a difficult process of delimiting the protected area and managing conflicting interests from local logging groups, the ‘Laderas Norte Reserva Natural del Quebracho y el Cóndor en la Cordillera de Laderas’ was established. The 8,145 acres protect the transition ecosystems between the Central Valley of Tarija and the Bolivian-Tucumanian Forest, and safeguard endangered flora species such as the quirusilla and cayotilla. Water sources for local peoples are also preserved, as well as scenic mountain ranges which have the potential to host adventure tourism.
“The approved law grants jurisdiction and involvement to the municipality with the local communities, which will enable the comprehensive development of the area in all its dimensions…. It has become an important model of synergy to be able to coordinate actions, assert sovereignty, preserve resources, and seek sustainable communal mechanisms for the proper use of resources,” explained Daniel Lopez.
This conservation milestone was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Laderas Norte community with the Municipal Government of Tarija’s Secretary of the Environment, the Tourism Board of Tarija, the City Council’s environment and tourism commissions, and our partners at Nativa Bolivia. Additional support was provided by the NGO Nature and Culture International (NCI).