FEBRUARY 2013 BACK ISSUE Text and photography by Ralph Lee Hopkins
Hope for an Alternative Future When people think of Baja California they immediately picture Cabo San Lucas, the playground for holiday makers and movie stars. What too few realize is that beyond the sport fishing, golf, and nightlife, lies unspoiled expanses of desert wilderness simply called - Baja or "lower" California. It's a place made legendary by John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts in their famous chronicle, Log from the Sea of Cortez. Just south of the international border in Mexico, the Sonoran Desert stretches to meet the Sea of Cortez. Remote springs and oases provide relief to an arid landscape of cactus and mountains, bordered by coastal wetlands and an ocean teaming with wildlife. As in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, Baja's rich biodiversity stems from isolation of the Gulf Islands and remote areas on the peninsula where evolution produced unique and endemic species. There is good news. Thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, key protected areas have been established: including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (San Ignacio Lagoon and Gulf Islands), seven wetlands recognized by RAMSAR, and Mexico's largest Biosphere Reserve, El Vizcaíno. The defeat of the salt mine expansion near San Ignacio Lagoon, the dramatic recovery of sea birds at Isla Rasa, the return of fish biomass at Cabo Pulmo, and recent cancellation of the Cabo Cortez mega-development that threatened the reef, are all important conservation success stories. These success stories give reason for hope. Unlike other places in the world where it's already too late, there is still time for Baja California - time to choose an alternative path for growth, development, and protection of the region's natural resources. For real hope, Baja California and the Sea of Cortez needs to become a world icon for conservation, so that future generations can be with the giant whales, whale sharks, and sea lions in an ocean filled with sea birds and marine life. Aerial Photo, Espiritu Santo Archipelago National Park, Baja California, Mexico. (Aerial support by Lighthawk) Aerial Photo, Cabo Pulmo National Park, Gulf of California, Baja California, Mexico. (Aerial support by Lighthawk) Gray whale mother and calf surfaces close to whale watching boat, California gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), San Ignacio Lagoon, Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Baja California, Mexico. Eye of the Whale, California Gray Whale Calf, (Eschrichtius robustus), San Ignacio Lagoon, Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Baja California, Mexico Breaching Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), Gorda Banks, Baja California, Mexico. Nesting, Elegant Terns (Sterna elegans), Isla Rasa Biologic Reserve, San Lorenzo Archipelago National Park, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico Long-beaked Common Dolphins (Delphinus capensis), Sea of Cortez, Gulf of California, Baja California, Mexico. Cell Phone Tower, Red Mangrove, Ballandra Bay, Baja Peninsula, Baja California, Mexico. Hand written Sign, near Tijuana, Pacific Ocean, Baja California, Mexico. La Ribera, Construction Site, Cabo Riviera, Sea of Cortez, East Cape, Baja California, Mexico. Aerial Photo, Still Wild, Cabo San Lucas, Land's End, Baja California, Mexico. (Aerial support by Lighthawk) Construction Worker Silhouette, Loreto Bay development, Loreto, Baja California, Mexico. Sunset through another highrise under construction, Pacific coast near Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Boojum trees (Fouquieria columnaris), Cardon Cactus (Pachycereus pringlei), endemic species, Valle de los Cirios, Biosphere Reserve, Baja California, Mexico. To learn more Cabo Pulmo Alliance CaboPulmoVivo.org HelmsleyTrust.org WhaleSharkMexico.com Wildcoast.net GreenPeace.org/mexico Shark fisherman, Pacific Ocean, Baja California, Mexico. Back to current issue