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Master of Environmental Science and Management: Master's Group Project

Rancho Encinalito: Land & Biodiversity Conservation Through Sustainable Enterprise Advancement in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Mountains in the distance with a field of beautiful flowers and shrubs.

Group Members: Sadie Armstrong, Julia Field, Samson Grunwald, Shivank Jhanji, Tatianna Suriel

Faculty Advisors: Tamma Carleton, Christina (Naomi) Tague

Client: Unión de Conservación Agua de la Sierra (UCAS)




This project is centered around a 950-acre property, known as “Rancho Encinalito,” located next to the Sierra de la Laguna UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Baja California Sur, Mexico. This region is home to high biodiversity and endemism that are threatened by prior land use practices and the anticipated impacts of climate change. Cattle ranching in the region puts significant pressure on the biodiversity given that it is mountainous and lacking grasslands, so cattle turn to saplings for sustenance. With a history of more than a century of cattle ranching, Rancho Encinalito was fenced in 2007 to exclude livestock and allow recovery of the heavily over-grazed vegetation.

Our project aims to enhance conservation efforts in the Sierra de la Laguna region by identifying and suggesting avenues for long-term conservation and protection of Rancho Encinalito as well as assessing potential avenues for sustainable or conservation-based economic opportunities for the landowners and cattle ranchers of Unión de Conservación Agua de la Sierra (UCAS). Recognizing Rancho Encinalito’s role as a part of a broader and interconnected social and environmental system, we plan to understand and outline sustainable land use practices in the Sierra de la Laguna region. Our work will be conducted in collaboration with and under the guidance of UCAS, a working group of cattle ranchers adjacent/near-adjacent to Rancho Encinalito, with whom we will work to identify sustainable economic pathways conducive to their evolving lifestyles that align with long-term conservation goals for this region.

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