Stalled Mexico green resort project wins funding

SIERRA GORDA, MEXICO The Sierra Gorda Ecological Group has been named as the benefactor of a grant from the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank, providing funding necessary to turn the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve of northern Queretaro State into a world-class tourism destination.

The project will directly benefit about 100 small to medium-sized businesses, including hotels, restaurants, tour guides, travel agencies and tourist services by contributing to the development of an economy in rural communities in naturally protected areas of Mexico with the purpose of creating a model of rural tourism in the Sierra Gorda region.

The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is a high-priority conservation area in Mexico due to its rich biodiversity and high degree of conservation. Although rich in natural resources, the area is made up of predominantly rural landholders in 600 communities facing economic problems and a lack of employment opportunities.

The funding will allow for innovative mechanisms to be installed, reducing rural poverty while minimizing deforestation, preserving diverse ecosystems and species and allowing for rehabilitation of degraded areas and sustainable management of natural resources. In 2008, the project received the Tourism for Tomorrow Award from the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Sierra Gorda is home to several cultural attractions, including five Franciscan Missions that have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, with colonial architecture, museums and archaeological sites. The region is recognized as a model biosphere reserve of the UNESCO Man & Biosphere Program and declared an important bird conservation area, has a RAMSAR wetland, and mobilizes a wide range of funding from public and private sectors in Mexico and internationally.