Terra Peninsular is a lovely gallery and community center with an important mission. Located in the heart of Ensenada's tourist village, visitors are invited to see the "Real Baja." The idea began with just a few like-minded souls in 2001 as a way to create public awareness for the need to conserve the remaining natural coastline of northern Baja, as well as the protection of the National Forest corridors as important water shed regions. The mission statement to conserve and protect the natural ecosystems and wildlife of the Baja California Peninsula supports the vision that one day their efforts will change the present course of how the lands of Baja are used. With community awareness and private land owners coming together, the natural resources of the Baja California Peninsula will be protected and managed.
How is that to be accomplished? It starts with just a few being aware of what has already been lost in development from Tijuana to San Quintín. These few crusaders are lighting a fire in others to face the need for change. Horacio Gonzales is one such visionary. He was one of the mission's original founders and now works with both private landowners and the public. I met with him at the Gallery and was stunned by the beauty of Alan Harper's photography that captures the light, the color and the feeling of the Baja landscape. Alan, also one of the founders has worked with large format photography to capture the landscapes and the extraordinary biodiversity of Baja California. He points out, "Rapid development and serene beauty are found in close proximity." He hopes that these photos will help the people of the region appreciate what they have, and what they will soon lose if no action is taken. The images he calls, "Real Baja."
One of the areas being focused on at this time is the corridor that runs along the coastline of the agricultural valley of San Quintín. Some photos show the fields tilled just a few feet from the bluff overlooking the Pacific. What is not realized by most is that first there is the loss of the rich mix of flora and fauna as well as, the problem of the pesticide poison runoff entering the world of the Pacific marine life.
Horacio said that what is helping is the public's need for organic produce. This pressures the farmers to give the public what will sell. Spokespersons from the organization go out to talk directly to farmers and ranchers asking them to consider changing their current methods. The "coastal disturbance" is well documented in a video brilliantly produced to show what has already been lost, and how significant this loss impacts us all.
Land acquisition is very important to the vision. Horacio and others interface with the landowner in the critical areas. They might convince a rancher that he could use his land in sustainable ways by inviting eco-friendly tourism such a hiking, fishing, camping that would replace some of the money that might occur in the change. If there is an opportunity to buy the land, Terra Peninsular's task is to find the funding. In addition, another most recent option is to actually lease the lands known as "Federal Zone" from the Mexican government. The Federal Zone was created to protect ownership of the coastal waters of both Baja coastlines. Developers then "leased" the land to build permanent structures. WildCoast activist, Serge Dedina, first awakened to the idea of leasing federal land as a conservation program to protect from further development. Horacio is quick to clarify that he and the organization are not against development, as long as it is sustainable and sensitive to the natural ecosystems and wildlife.
Martina Dobesh is a freelance journalist and author. She writes for The Baja News, The Baja Times, and a new website Baja.com. She lives on the Baja peninsula and through her writing is active in promoting greater awareness about the plight of Baja's remaining natural beauty and resources.