REGUA is overjoyed with the recent purchases in the Lagoinha valley. As you can see from the attached map, the valley is a key area for conservation. With forest on either side which have been separated by farming activities, it prevents species movement and which can lead to species isolation. The ownership of the area is even more complex in that it is made up of over 50 land owners whose properties vary in size.
Where to start?
When Nicholas showed the REGUA trustees the valley 10 years ago, they were slightly apprehensive at the thought of slowly buying into a valley of 700ha with so many land owners. What if some never were to sell?
Everyone could understand its biological significance, but not all were prepared to start this battle. Nine years later, having secured large sections within adjacent valleys, the time came to address the Lagoinha challenge. With this area REGUA would be preventing further farming and potential urban development to enter this valley.
The degradation of Lagoinha was still apparent, and a certain courage was needed to start the process. The first step was to map the valley even if this proved contentious to its residents. They might not approve of REGUA stepping in. One property was identified initially as a natural area to start, number 19. It came on the market at a reasonable price, and after negotiation the purchase was complete. Soon afterwards another property was identified, number 32, which would constrict the potential development at the base of the valley.
Nicholas managed to identify and telephone its owner.
“The owner was keen to sell as he wasn’t able to install electricity there and concluded that if he couldn’t get energy he might as well sell it to REGUA. Unfortunately that week the electricity company expanded the energy grid to include his property and he withdrew the property from the market. With this we thought that the other land owners would lobby the electricity company to install energy to all properties within the valley, a sure sign that development was just around the corner. I talked to our local environmental secretary and he understood the environmental impact this would have on the biodiversity of the area and decided not to allow the grid to expand into the valley. Messias [one of REGUA’s Rangers] also helped locally reduce the interest amongst local landowners.
This coincided with the interest of a dedicated Swiss environmentalist visiting REGUA. He took an instant liking to two brothers wanting to sell their properties, Areas 20, 21, 22 & 23, and this visit was instrumental in clinching a really important deal, for this purchase was essential to start the process of acquiring a number of properties. With further mapping we went on to identify key areas and approved the purchase of other key areas, being Areas 18, 24, 25 & 26.
The most important thing was to guarantee a full corridor between the forested land to the west and east forest edges. I talked to the authorities who are responsible for the Park and received total support for all land purchases, and this led to other land owners in the valley wanting to sell to REGUA. With more land protected, they sensed that development was not going to occur and that their pieces of land will not increase in value. They are now keener to sell to REGUA. It seems that the dream we had so many years ago is slowly becoming a possibility.
We are slowly mapping the areas missing, but if we secure the areas in yellow we start limiting the capacity of the owners of the remaining area to develop their land. The biodiversity of this area is gaining protected ground and has a good chance to be protected forever. We feel this is the most important contribution we can make.”