HOW WILDCOAST WORKS WITH COMMUNITIES

Carrying out conservation programs is challenging at all levels. It requires partnerships and collaboration with government agencies and officials, the private sector and the people in communities who are in and around the ecosystems, wildlife and protected areas that WILDCOAST strives to conserve. 

Scallop divers, Magdalena Baj, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Photo: Miguel Angel de la Cueva

Probably the most important part of the conservation coalitions that advocate for the protection of coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife are the diverse community members and organizations in coastal communities. 

Working them is essential and rewarding to protecting our coast and ocean. But it is not an end inself. That is because WILDCOAST is not a community development organization. Our mission is to carry out coastal and marine conservation and address climate change through natural solutions. 

We work with communities and local organizations because it is the right thing to do and it is the most effective way to advance conservation. There is no nature protection without community engagement, because people are part of nature everywhere WILDCOAST works. 

Here are some ways that WILDCOAST is working at a community level for nature protection and especially addressing climate change. 

Stewardship

One of the most important elements of conservation for WILDCOAST is the actual on site protection and management or stewardship of the protected areas we work in. To be effective, stewardship requires active local volunteers and organizations to help defend ecosystems and protected areas. 

In La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, Las Guardianas del Conchalito is a group of women who work with WILDCOAST, as well as Mexico’s Protected Area Commission (CONANP), to manage a mangrove reserve called  ”El Conchalito.” 

According to WILDCOAST’s Mangrove Conservation Manager Celeste Ortega, “These local conservationists have helped to install reserve information signs for visitors; painted murals with local artists and carried out really extensive cleanup campaigns.” 

More recently the Guardianas worked with law enforcement authorities to stop the destruction of mangroves by a poacher. The women of Conchalito illustrate the power of local stewardship to protect carbon sequestering mangroves, which combat the effects of climate change and help safeguard their community. 

Education

Working with local communities and especially students on education campaigns is critical in the defense of threatened ecosystems and wildlife. In the case of marine protected areas in California, WILDCOAST, carried out extensive in-field and classroom education programs about marine protected areas to reach the community at large as well as thousands of students. During the pandemic this helped to reduce the people illegally harvesting sea life from fragile tide pools in and around marine protected areas in California. 

One of the ways that WILDCOAST has gone deeper into the education side of things is to recognize the need for additional leadership to help advocate for our coastal areas. That is why we developed the Coastal Leaders Internship program.

 “I am thrilled for the opportunity to continue to work with our local Indigenous students and communities as well as to work for an organization that acknowledges Indigenous land and stewardship practices,” said WILDCOAST’s Jules Jackson. “The Coastal Leaders Internship is an innovative leadership program that provides a teaching platform for both Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge and modern-day environmental conservation, thus enabling students the unique platform to develop their scientific understanding in a way which aligns with their culture and values while providing a pathway for future employment. 

Likewise, wildlife protection is impossible to carry out in rural and remote areas like southern Oaxaca without the involvement and education of local residents, especially in the indigenous coastal communities that help to protect nesting sea turtles. 

“The Oaxacan coast is home to two of the most important beaches in the world for olive ridley nesting,” says Luis Angel Rojas Cruz of WILDCOAST. “We have  educated more than 1,000 children and young people from coastal communities of Chontal and Zapotec origin on the issue of sea turtle conservation including developing outreach material in their native languages. 

As a result, we have noticed that community participation in the conservation of sea turtles has generated a change of consciousness in part of its inhabitants, especially in children and young people.” 

Restoration and Research Partnership for Natural Climate Solutions 

Carrying out natural climate solutions programs to restore coastal wetlands in California and mangrove lagoons in Mexico, requires extensive partnerships and participation through local conservation groups, students as well as academic partnerships with research institutions such as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Queensland in Australia. 

To carry out a mangrove restoration project in Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California Sur, Mexico, “WILDCOAST partnered with local residents, especially youth and women’s groups in this remote UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected area,” said Francisco Martinez of WILDCOAST. “The mangrove project provides employment and training opportunities for local residents and helps create a natural defense system against coastal flooding in a region that is routinely hit by hurricanes.”

In California, WILDCOAST, is partnering with local conservation organizations such as the Batiquitos Lagoon Conservancy to restore wetland and riparian habitat in a state marine protected area, and involve local youth in restoration efforts as well. That way there is local buy-in for the project and local investment in supporting its success.

Volunteers at the Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad, CA help plant 100 trees as part of a commitment with San Diego Gas and Electric to plant 10,000 trees in 2021.

Right: Youth groups help remove scattered and submerged trash during an annual Batiquitos Lagoon Cleanup. Left: Students help clear invasives + Arundo plant, making room for local plants to thrive and enhancing the lagoon’s overall ecosystem function. Together, we are helping strengthen the lagoon’s ecosystem services such as recreation, carbon storage, and critical wildlife habitat. 

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To be successful in conservation, local ecosystems and wildlife need all the friends they can get. And that means that for every conservation action taken, a robust coalition of community members and organizations is involved every step of the way. That is because conservation must be a team effort all the way. That is why WILDCOAST will continue its deep partnerships and collaborative work with local communities and vibrant organizations in order to give our coast and ocean as well as our planet a helping hand.

Baja’s San Miguel Surf Break Protected as a State Park

On September 19, Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla signed into law the establishment of the 169-acre Arroyo San Miguel State Park, just north of Ensenada. The new park, the first state park in the history of Baja California, includes the beach at the famed San Miguel river mouth, a cobblestone point, as well as the riparian watershed of the same name. 

“The San Miguel break, which was the first place where surfing began in Mexico, is an iconic site for the surfing community, so we celebrate this decree,” said Eduardo Echegaray, president of the Baja California Surfing Association.

Daniel Dedina enjoys an early winter session at San Miguel. Photo: WILDCOAST

The new state park helps to strengthen the Bahia de Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve that includes San Miguel, Todos Santos Island, and Salsipuedes among other surf breaks. The reserve proposal was supported by a coalition of organizations including Pronatura-Noroeste, Save the Waves, Northwest Environmental Law Center (DAN), Pro Esteros, Island Conservation Group (GECI)and WILDCOAST.  

That’s me surfing San Miguel during the annual contest there each January. It is a special place that the designation of the state park can help to safeguard.

“With this decree, Governor Bonilla has left a legacy for the people of Baja California, and in particular Ensenada,” said Gustavo Danemann, executive director of Pronatura Noroeste. “The Arroyo San Miguel State Park is the first natural protected area to be established under state jurisdiction, and with this, it sets a precedent on the vision we have in Baja California for the protection and public and sustainable use of our landscapes and natural areas.”

Similar to the San Mateo Creek watershed within San Onofre State Beach, Arroyo San Miguel State Park is a classic riparian oak watershed – a vibrant coastal and terrestrial ecosystem as well as a fabled surf spot.

“Arroyo San Miguel State Park is dominated by riparian habitats with oaks, willows and reeds as well as species of native vegetation, especially increasingly threatened coastal sage scrub,” said WILDCOAST Mexico director Mónica Franco. “It is also home to resident and migratory birds such as quail and peregrine falcons.”

Map of new Arroyo San Miguel State Park

The most important element for surfers is that it restricts development along the shoreline and along the western end of the watershed and is a big victory for the environmental and surfing community of Baja California. 

“The designation of the Arroyo San Miguel State Park is a truly community initiative,” said Danemann. “The Baja California government demonstrated fundamental support and commitment to make this possible. We are confident that the new state administration will also support the conservation of the Arroyo San Miguel State Park, and we reaffirm our commitment to continue collaborating in this project.”

Community cleanup prior to a surf contest at Arroyo San Miguel State Park, Baja California, Mexico. The Ensenada surf and environmental community have been very involved in the development of the state park and the protection of the surf break, wetland, and watershed. Photo: WILDCOAST

Originally published in The Inertia.

Surfing the Border Cape Region Tour

I did a book tour of the Cape Region of Baja --Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, Vinorama and Los Barriles from April 9-12, 2015. Thanks to Sofia Gomez and Fay Crevoshay for organizing media coverage of the tour.

I did a book tour of the Cape Region of Baja –Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, Vinorama and Los Barriles from April 9-12, 2015. Thanks to Sofia Gomez and Fay Crevoshay for organizing media coverage of the tour.

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With a staff member of the municipality who came to my talk in Todos Santos.

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Todos Santos is a Pueblo Magico in Mexico and has done a great job of using the arts to promote economic development and tourism.

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I gave a talk at La Esquina on the west side of Todos Santos and was happy to see my longtime friend Gary there. I’ve known Gary since I started surfing in Imperial Beach.

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With our WILDCOAST Chapter members in Todos Santos and Paula Angelotti (second from right) the manager of La Esquina who hosted the talk. 

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When I lived in Todos Santos more than 20 years ago, the beach at Los Cerritos, south of Todos Santos, was bereft of development. Now the dunes there have been replaced by buildings that are at risk from storm-related erosion there.

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Thanks to Armando Figaredo of Cabo Mil radio for interviewing me on his very popular mid-day radio show. I was on the air after a candidate for governor, so I knew it was a good audience. Thanks Armando!

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Osiris Herrera and of the Papalote Sports Bar kindly hosted my talk in San Jose del Cabo. Thanks Osiris and Anne for he wonderful poster design!!!

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We had a great group in San Jose including Raul Rodriguez Quintana, the Los Cabos Municipality Director of Ecoloby (kneeling) and Martha Moctezuma (in the green blouse to my right).

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The Estero San Jose Wetland Reserve is a natural gem at the edge of Los Cabos. It is also a sister reserve with the TJ Estuary in Imperial Beach.

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The reserve is an important habitat for migrant birds.

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The Estero San Jose Reserve is also a wetland of international importance.

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The reserve is incredibly beautiful.

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With Sofia Gomez of WILDCOAST (left) and the Los Cabos Municipality crew along with Martha Moctezuma of Los Cabos Coastkeeper.

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With Melina Arana of Imperial Beach and her husband Horacio who manages he Los Cabos Organic Market.



With Judy Tolbert of Baja Books who hosted me at the weekly organic market.

With Judy Tolbert of Baja Books who hosted me at the weekly organic market.

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At the very nice VidaSoul Hotel and Restaurant on the East Cape. Thanks to owner Joan who generously hosted my talk.

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With Cabo Pulmo National Park Director Director Carlos Godinez (blue shirt) and Park Monitoring Coordinator Ronald Zepeta along with East Cape resident and writer Dawn Pier at Vidasoul-which is a great place for talk.

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Thanks to our WILDCOAST Chapter members who organized a talk at the Hotel Palmas de Cortez in the East Cape town of Los Barriles. It was great to see my longtime friend Markos Higginson who I used to lifeguard with at the Silver Strand State Beach more than 20 years ago.





My New Book, Surfing the Border

I will launch the tour for my new book, Surfing the Border, on Saturday January 24th in Coronado and Imperial Beach. I will be speaking and signing books at the Coronado Library Winn Room from 2-3pm and then from 5-6:30 pm I’ll be at the Pier South Resort in Imperial Beach. Should be a blast!!

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WILDCOAST IMPACT 2014

One of the great pleasures of being the Executive Director of WILDCOAST is being able to evaluate our impact each year. And this year was a tremendous year of success. Here are some of our results.

impacts page

The Baja Malibu/Campo Torres Sewage Gulch

These photos were taken at a sewage gulch at the south end of Baja Malibu or Campo Torres on July 23, 2014 (same beach different development). The sewage is released from a development east of the coastal toll road. WILDCOAST is following up with CONAGUA and PROFEPA in Mexico to file complaints. Residents complain of foul odors, fouled ocean water and tons of mosquitoes.

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4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest in San Miguel Day 1

On Saturday March 22, 2014  young surfers from Mexico and the U.S. gathered in San Miguel, Baja California to participate in the 4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest. Organized by Alfredo Ramirez and United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO) with the help of Zach Plopper and WILDCOAST/COSTASALVAJE, the event provided a forum for young surfers to rip 2-4′ waves and celebrate international friendships. Additionally, Day 1, included the SUP and bodyboard divisions.

It was a great day. Day 2 on March 23, is the open event. The photos here are all from Day 1.

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Daniel Dedina with San Miguel local and artist Jaime Noia.

Daniel Dedina with San Miguel local and artist Jaime Noia.

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Afredo Ramirez of UAPO with competitors. The best part of this contest is bringing together surfers from Mexico and the U.S.

Afredo Ramirez of UAPO with competitors. The best part of this contest is bringing together surfers from Mexico and the U.S.

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Girls contestants.

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Daniel Dedina, Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz from IB.

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Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz await their final heat.

Jack Stewart and Cameron Bartz await their final heat.

Cameron Bartz.

Cameron Bartz.

Lance Mann

Lance Mann

Paul Stewart.

Paul Stewart.

Daniel Dedina

Daniel Dedina

Dakotah Hooker

Dakotah Hooker

Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson

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Dakotah Hooker.

Dakotah Hooker.

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Paul Stewart.

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Javi Meza

Javi Meza

Daniel Dedina

Daniel Dedina

SUP finalists.

SUP finalists.

Grom finalists.

Grom finalists.

Girls finalists.

Girls finalists.

Bodyboard finalists.

Bodyboard finalists.

Junior finalists.

Junior finalists.

Cameron Bartz, Paul Steward, Lance Mann and Daniel Dedina.

Cameron Bartz, Paul Steward, Lance Mann and Daniel Dedina. It is great to see so many young surfers surfing and making friends south of the border. It is great for them to travel and make lots of friends up and down the coast. That is the true spirit of surfing.

A Trip to Todos Santos Island

A couple of day’s before Christmas we celebrated my oldest son’s 18th birthday with a day-trip out to Baja’s Todos Santos Island. It was a magical day in a very special place.

Israel.

Israel celebrating his 18th birthday.

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A cyclops wave.

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The lighthouse dominates the land and seascape.

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Because the waves come out of deep water, it is hard to see the sets coming until they break on you.

The wave at Todos Santos is a beauty.

The wave at Todos Santos is a beauty.

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That’s me on a fun one.

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My youngest son Daniel (15)  gets a set wave.

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One of the sets rolling through.

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Israel.

Israel and Daniel sharing a small one.

Israel and Daniel sharing a small one. It gives me great pleasure to watch my sons surf together.

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Daniel after a long day in the water.

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Israel after his birthday surf session. He’d been asking me to take him for a couple of years.

WILDCOAST IMPACT 2013

WILDCOAST impact

Thanks to my great staff, board members and our partners, WILDCOAST had a banner year. You can make a difference and preserve the coast and ocean by donating to WILDCOAST here.

Baja Crafts and Culture: Pottery in Tecate

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Leño Contreras of Alfareria Contreras

After a trip to visit Finca Altozano in the Guadalupe Valley, we returned via Tecate and passed one of the many pottery stands along Highway 3. Pottery in Baja is one of those things that you assume has no real origin and is somehow magically made.

Anytime I find people who are creating things by hand in our rational, industrial and highly mechanized and computerized economy, I am filled with admiration (which is why I have interviewed so many custom surfboard craftsmen).

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But as we stopped to check out the pottery of Leño Contreras of Alfareria Contreras (Carr. Tecate-Ens 15 1/2 -Cerro Azul, Tecate), I realized that the art of turning clay from the hills into pottery is more than likely a dying tradition and is representative of long-standing cultural traditions that are pre-Hispanic in origin throughout Mexico and the Southwest.

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“We’ve been here since the early 1980s,” said Leño. “We gather the clay in the hills. In order to fire our kilns, we used to gather dead trees from a nearby forest, but the Forest Service stopped that. Now we buy recycled wood that is collected from the factories in Tijuana.”

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“The widening and improvement of the Highway has brought us more tourists, as has the tourism of the Guadalupe Valley. A few years ago when the economy was bad, things were not good. Now we’re doing better.”

Emily and I purchased some luna and sol wall hangings for our backyard. Now we have a nice reminder of our nice with visit with Leño.

Alfareria Contreras is on Highway 3 (Km 15 1/2) just about 10-15 minutes south of Tecate on the highway to Ensenada.

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