Help Save the Los Cedros Biological Reserve from Mining

By Liz Downes

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The last intact catchment in northwest Ecuador - the Los Cedros Biological Reserve is under threat of mining. A legal challenge has begun to save it along with 42 other Protected Forest Reserves and numerous Indigenous territories from being devasted by roads and mines. A win for Los Cedros, could help save roughly 1.82 million acres, (or more than 30% of 'protected' reserves in Ecuador) along with 2.47 million acres of Indigenous homelands. We need your help to make it happen.

A little bit of context

The Los Cedros Protected Forest Reserve is a roadless wilderness area in the North West of Ecuador, and contains 12987 acres of incredibly rare, primary lower montane rainforest. Over 95% of this forest type has already been lost.

Scientific research over the last 30 years has discovered exceptional biodiveristy values within Los Cedros. Scientists have noted:
- 2 critically endangered species
- 24 endangered species
- 99 that are listed as vulnerable
- 59 that are threatened or near threatened.

For a page full of details of the incredible splendours of Los Cedros (along with some spectacular photos) Click here

Among the most significant animal species found at Los Cedros is the critically endangered brown-headed spider monkey (less than 250 remain in the wild), the neotropical otter, margay, puma, jaguar, and spectacled bear.

Unsurprisingly, Los Cedros is also a bird hotspot. At least 298 bird species have been seen along the short trail system, including numerous endemic species found only in the cloud forests of the Chocó region, secretive species like the lanceolated monklet, and newly discovered species such as the cloud forest pygmy owl.

Of the birds seen at the Reserve, at least 10 are endangered, threatened, vulnerable, or near threatened due to habitat loss. The forest is also extraordinarily rich in plant species. A field study estimated an average of 299 tree species per hectare, an estimated 400 orchid species (many of which were first discovered in the Reserve) and a very high number of local endemic species with small ranges.

Click here to view a 23min documentary about the reserve

But there’s a problem

Since 2016 the Ecuadorian government has announced mining concessions to over 7.17 million acres, opening these pristine areas to mining, poaching, illegal logging and deforestation (click here to view a video on the impacts of new roads in forested landscapes) . Many of these exploratory concessions are in protected forests and indigenous territories, as well in headwater ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots of global importance. Additionally, many of these concessions appear to be in violation of Ecuadorian law and international treaties.

Despite its status as a Protected Forest, Sixty-eight percent of Los Cedros has recently been put into mining concessions. Areas of copper-containing porphyries in the reserve were identified by aeromagnetic surveys, conducted by the World Bank without permission of the landowners. Prospectors are currently making physical incursions into the reserve, again without permission.

This month, prospectors working for Canadian Cornerstone Resources have destroyed forests within Los Cedros setting up their first camp. A couple of days ago, Los Cedros’ director Jose Decoux’s computer and phone were stolen and numerous roads are being pushed deeper into the reserve's boundaries. Los Cedros is not accessible by road, and for this reason has been, until now, both better protected, and less scientifically explored than some other Protected Forest reserves.

In 2000, it was estimated that more than 96% of the forests in western Ecuador had been deforested, more has been lost since then, and now the few remaining protected areas are being threatened. The biodiversity in this last intact watershed is remarkable, yet most of it remains to be discovered and understood.

Mining represents a short-term investment with great long-term costs to the people of Ecuador. We cannot maintain the illusion that mining can be done without grave ecological and human health consequences, consequences that are well documented in scientific literature.

As water resources throughout the world come increasingly under pressure, unlogged watersheds such as that of the Los Cedros river are accordingly precious.

Here’s what we’re doing about it

A respected Ecuadorian lawyer is working to put in place a legal injunction to stop the incursions into the Los Cedros reserve. We have been advised that if we can mount a legal case, there’s a good chance of success. This will also be an important test case and prcedent for the 42 other Protected Forest Reserves and the large tracts of Indigenous Territories currently under mining concessions in Ecuador. A win for Los Cedros, could save many other 'protected' reserves along with 2.47 million acres of Indigenous Territories.

You can join us

Funds raised from this crowd funding campaign are 100% TAX DEDUCTIBLE and will go in support of the recently established Los Cedros legal fund, which will pay for evidence gathering, court fees and other associated legal costs. The reserve volunteers are facing spiralling legal costs and need at least $5000 to put together the strongest legal case possible.

Finally, we would be grateful if you could take a moment to sign the PETITION calling on the Ecuadorian government to uphold the law and end mining in the Los Cedros protected forest reserve.

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Team Members

Liz Downes


Gregory Hall

John Seed

Liz Downes

Susie Russell