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About the Valdivian Coastal Reserve
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve (VCR) is a private protected area located in the municipalities Corral and La Union, in the Los Ríos Region, between the Chaihuín and the Bueno Rivers and is designated as a forest conservation landmark of the Southern Chilean Valdivian Forest and its coastal range, as well as one of the nation’s mayor conservation initiatives.
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve comprises 50,829.82 hectares and is owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an international NGO that acquired lots of the Chaihuín-Venecia area in 2003, with the support of others, including Conservation International (CI).
The Organization signed a voluntary and perpetual conservation servitude in relation to the Valdivian Coastal Reserve with the Centro de los Bosques Nativos (Center of Native Forests) Forecos Foundation, which, from that moment on, acts as a Land Trust or conservation guarantor, to assure compliance with The Nature Conservancy’s conservation objectives for the Reserve.
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve is located in the coastal mountain range of the Cordillera de la Costa in the Chilean Los Ríos Region and reaches a maximum altitude of 1.084 meters AMSL at Mirador Hill (Lara et al., 1999).
Rainfall in the Reserve is abundant, exceeding 1.500 mm in the lowlands (Little et al., 2014), while reaching an annual average of 4.250 mm in the highlands (Barichivich, 2005).
The average annual temperature is approximately 11.5 °C (Little et al., 2014).
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve is intersected by many rivers and streams (Chaihuín, Colun, Pichicolun, Hueicolla, Pichihueicolla, Carimahuida, Los Patos and Bueno), which, with the exception of the Bueno River, originate in the Cordillera de la Costa (Delgado, 2005).
The area is dominated by evergreen forest ecosystems and, to a lesser extent, by Larch forests.
Other ecosystems include rivers, lakes, wetlands, rocky intertidal and subtidal areas, sandy beaches and dunes (PCA, 2015).
The territory of the Reserve contains more than 340 different plant species (Delgado, 2010; Munoz-Pedreros et al., 2005), 96 bird species, 31 mammals, 12 amphibians and 5 reptiles (PCA, 2015).
Some of these are under global threat, according to IUCN (2015), including the Coastal Larch or Alerce (Fitzroya cuppresoides), the Southern river otter (Lontra provocax) and Darwin’s Fox (Lycalopex fulvipes).
History of the territory
The area currently taken up by the Valdivian Coastal Reserve has a long history of human occupation, which is reflected at the Colún area, which contains archaeological remains that might represent human occupation up to 5.000 years BP (Adam et al., 2003), such as the site at Chan Chan, on the San José de la Mariquina coast.
During the Spanish Conquest, this area was presumably permanently occupied by the Huilliche people, whom maintained a connection with the peoples living inland through roads crossing the Cordillera de la Costa (Molina et al., 2006).
During the 19th century, following Chilean independence and the creation of the Valdivia Province, important changes took place, resulting in the displacement of the Huilliche to reductions and the active colonization by Chilean and European settlers, most of which German (Godoy & Adan, 2006).
From this moment on, the industrial activity in the area greatly expanded, including the exploitation of forestry- (especially Larch), fishing- and whaling resources, as well as mineral exploration (Godoy & Adan, 2006).
Milestones include the founding of the Altos Hornos de Corral steel mill (1906), the development of the whaling industry at Amargos and intensive industrialized forestry activity (Andrade & Pacheco, 2012).
Timber development in the area can be traced back to the 19th century with the establishment of the Vergara and Cotapos sawmill, subsequently followed by forestry company Forestal Ralco and Bima, which mainly exploited the native Larch forests (Godoy & Adan, 2006).
By the end of the 1980’s, forestry company Terranova S.A. bought the Chaihuín and Venecia lands, which were afterwards purchased by Bosques S.A.
Both companies implemented extensive native forest substitution with eucalyptus plantations, a practice that finally ceased in 2002, following the bankruptcy of Bosques S.A. (Delgado & Andrade, 2012).
In 2003, The Nature Conservancy acquired 59.700 hectares included in the Chaihuín and Venecia lots, creating the Valdivian Coastal Reserve (Delgado, 2005). Subsequently, in 2012, the conservation NGO donated approximately 9.500 ha to the Chilean State to facilitate the creation of the Alerce Costero National Park.
As a result of its occupational history, a culturally diverse territory has formed, co-created by the aboriginal Huilliche and Mapuche peoples, workers and settlers.
The tangible legacy of past human activity is still present in an important part of the region, both in the archaeological sites on the coast, as well as in the network of forestry camps in the Cordillera de la Costa (Adan et al, 2003; Godoy, 2014).
This is accompanied by local memory that helps to keep history alive in the communities (PCA, 2015).
Mapuche traditions –such visiting Ngen Chaway– are in recuperation by the Huiro and Chaihuín communities and in full force in Mashue and Pilpilcahuín (Godoy, 2014).
The neighboring communities
The relationship of the local communities with the territory is closely connected with the use of its natural resources, including firewood, fruits, medicinal plants and marine produce (Godoy, 2003).
Marine resources are fundamental, not only as a source of income and food, but also in terms of social organization and local memory (see Andrade & Pacheco, 2011).
Similarly, keeping livestock is not only an important activity for certain communities (Godoy, 2003), but also a relevant aspect of their identity.
© Nick Hall for The Nature Conservancy
Protection and conservation of the environment, the sea, the rivers, the forests and their respective resources
The conservation area of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve is located at 40 kilometers southwest of the city of Valdivia, along the coastal road that connects Corral with the rural locality Chaihuín.
The area is limited to the north with the Chaihuín River, to the south with the Bueno River, to the east with the Alerce Costero National Park and private lands, and to the West with the Pacific Ocean, the Huiro indigenous community, the Huicollan Circle property and the premises of the Factoring Security and Valdivia Forestry company.
The objective of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve is to protect and preserve the environment, its rich and unique natural ecosystems, to conserve its 35 kilometers of coastline and an important hydrographic network with a length of approximately 970 km, divided into five basins.
It includes the care for Coastal Olivillo forests (Aextoxicon punctatum), a tree that may live up to 400 years and is found in large groups on the western slopes of the Cordillera de la Costa. Another preservation object are the significant expanses of Coastal Larch (Fitzroya cupressoides), which are genetically different from those to be found in the intermediate depressions and the Cordillera de Los Andes, but very similar to the huge North American Pacific redwood. Both may live up to 4.000 years.
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve is part of an extensive temperate rainforest that emerges from the austral Chilean coast and has a fascinating past.
During the Eocene, 56-34 millions years ago, the Antarctic, New Zealand and Australia were still connected to the South American continent, which is why it is possible to find species here that are closely related to those that can be found in these, now distant, places.
The Reserve is the habitat of an impressive number of plants and amphibians unique to the area, as well as a large population of Pudú (Pudu puda) –among the smallest deer species in South America– and the Puma or Mountain lion (Puma concolor).
In 2013, national and foreign scientists, with the help of camera traps, unveiled the presence of populations of the endangered Darwin’s fox (Lycalopex fulvipes) in three protected areas of the Los Rios Region, including the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
This species lives only in Chile, with a confirmed distribution restricted to Chiloé island, the Nahuelbuta area (Araucanía Region) and, since the discovery, the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
It is regarded to be among the nine carnivore species worldwide under critical threat of extinction.
Another exciting endemic Chilean mammal with a habitat in the Reserve’s forests is the Colocolo opossum (Dromiciops gliroides). This marsupial is the only extant species of its order and is therefore considered by scientists to be a “living fossil”.
It is furthermore possible to find at least 58 bird species, including the Magellanic woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus), the largest of its kind in the world, and rare endemic carnivores such as the Huillín or Southern river otter (Lontra provocax).
However, the preservation of these unique forests is not only important for the plants and animals that inhabit the area, but also for the communities surrounding the Valdivian Coastal Reserve. According to the 2002 census, approximately 1.988 people live currently in the 1.740 km2 that conform the the Valdivian Coastal Reserve’s buffer zone (Farias, 2012).
Immediately annex to the Reserve are the localities Chaihuín, Huiro, Cadillal Bajo, Cadillal Alto, Hueicolla and Lamehuapi, while Huape and Los Liles lie at a few kilometers away.
According to the Social Protection Report, an important part of the inhabitants of these communities is poor and highly vulnerable (first quintile). The majority are engaged in activities such as fishing, livestock farming and tourism (see Godoy, 2003).
Hueicolla had, according to the 2002 census, 50 inhabitants (see Farias, 2012), however, the permanent residing population here is currently considerably less.
Hueicolla has a large number of houses linked to the Hueicollan Circle, which are mostly occupied during the summer months (Delgado & Andrade, 2012; Godoy, 2003).
Meanwhile, the locality of Lamehuapi has approximately a dozen houses, which are used by fishermen from the towns of Niebla and La Unión (Godoy, 2014).
© Nick Hall for The Nature Conservancy
Area conservation plan, management plan and objectives
The Nature Conservancy defined its vision for the Valdivian Coastal Reserve during the preparation of the Area Conservation Plan in 2005:
“The Valdivian Coastal Reserve is an area of in-situ conservation of utmost importance, which ensures a functional landscape and is home to an important representation of the biodiversity of Temperate Coastal Forests. It presents a model for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, is science- and community based, and provides effective protection for the rich diversity of ecosystems, species and biological processes that take place within.” (Delgado, 2005, p. 9)
The labor of The Nature Conservancy in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve has been outlined since 2005 within six general objectives, which were subsequently adjusted during the elaboration of the 2010 Management Plan (Delgado, 2010).
For the current management cycle, Nature Conservancy’s management objectives have been modified from the previous and are consolidated in three general objectives:
1 - Preserve the biological and cultural diversity in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, including its coastline and buffer areas
2 - Contribute to the welfare of local- and regional communities, promoting and encouraging the responsible and sustainable use of resources in the Reserve and buffer areas
3 - Construct a referential conservation model, based on a dialogue between scientific evidence and the participation of local-, regional- and national communities
© 2011 Erika Nortemann for The Nature Conservancy
Management Programs: Administration, prevention, conservation, education, public use and community development
In order to comply with the conservation- and local development objectives of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, we established the following management programs that govern the actions related with the protected area.
1. Administration program
The Administration program is transversal, aimed at one principal objective, which is to facilitate Nature Conservancy’s management of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, both in financial- and operational terms.
Specifically, it includes the integration of activities to be implemented, monitoring indicators, the evaluation of strategies and staff performance and –based on the above– a decision-making process related to planned actions.
The activities of the Administration Program focus on six key roles: Administration, Risk prevention, Coordination, Staff supervision and -training, Relationships with other actors and Performance evaluation of the protected area plus infrastructure.
2. Forest fire prevention program
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve’s forest-fire prevention program has two main objectives:
1 - Reduce the risk of forest fires through prevention
2 - Respond to contingencies when an outbreak is declared within the protected area and/or surrounding areas
To assure the prevention of fires that might put the ecological heritage of the Reserve at risk, and taking into consideration that the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and the Alerce Costero National Park are annex, the program is articulated in close collaboration with the National Forestry Corporation (in Spanish: CONAF) through the organization’s Fire Control Program.
The latter facilitates shared communication lines, staff training, prevention strategies and coordinated fire-fighting efforts.
3. Biological conservation and monitoring program
The purpose of this program is to excecute the conservation- and management strategies identified in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve’s Area Conservation Plan. In this context, the program focuses on controlling and mitigating the main risks present in the reserve. For these purposes, five subprograms have been put in place:
Restoration and forest management subprogram
The long-term objective of this subprogram is to increase the area covered by native forest in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve. The Nature Conservacy pretends to replace at least 3.000 hectares of eucalyptus plantations with endemic species of the Valdivian forest, considered to be an ecosystem of high conservation value on a global level. In a pilot program, executed between 2013 and 2014, 102,3 hectares of eucalyptus were harvested and replaced with 165.000 native trees.
The project is currently in its second stage, in which the role of local communities is of utmost importance.
Livestock management subprogram
The objective of subprogram is to minimize the presence of cattle within the Reserve so to control and mitigate the impact that these animals have on the native forest and its water resources.
In this case, it is essential to delimit those areas within the reserve that have a forestry and agricultural destination, and to create communitarian livestock management zones with a predefined load, to assure that the animal units match the capacity of the area.
These management zones will be complementary to existing leases, whose surfaces are considered small for sustainable livestock development.
Fauna management subprogram
The native-, invasive- and domestic fauna management subprogram considers activities such as the management and control of wildlife and domestic animals (excluding livestock, covered by the Livestock Management subprogram). In the case of invasive species, we strive to minimize the use of pesticides and avoid any action that might be considered to be animal abuse.
Coastal resources subprogram
This subprogram considers activities related to area management and the exploitation of benthic resources, associated with the Valdivian Coastal Reserve’s coastal area and estuaries.
The actions covered by this subprogram are mostly related to the Rocky Coast conservation object and, to a lesser extent, freshwater and estuary ecosystems.
In both cases, the role of The Nature Conservancy is to support fishermen’s unions in the sustainable management of these areas.
The subprogram is the specific responsibility of the Humboldt-Chile project.
The objective of the surveillance subprogram is to perform routine patrols and quickly respond to reports of events that might threaten the Valdivian Coastal Reserve in any way.
4. Environmental and Patrimonial Education program
The purpose of this program is to help educate the community on environmental- and cultural issues related to the Valdivian Coastal Reserve.
It includes environmental-patrimonial education activities for local schools, as well as for the general population. Environmental education is one of the strategies frequently identified as beneficial for the protection of conservation objects and threat management.
In this sense, this program comprises a cornerstone for the conservation of the area and adjacent zones, while, in addition, helps to achieve the required curricular goals of the involved educational establishments.
The program is executed in coordination with the Environmental Education Plan of the neighboring Alerce Costero National park.
5. Public use program
Its objectives are ordered public use within the protected area and improving visitor care. In the planning stages, the target is to integrate the vision of all actors involved.
The public use program is governed, in turn, by the Valdivian Coastal Reserve’s zoning plan, which determines which types of activities are allowed where, as well as establishing the corresponding regulations and/or restrictions.
6. Social Participation and Community Development program
This program consists of three subprograms:
Social Participation subprogram
The main objective of the program is to involve the local community in the activities implemented in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and, when relevant, in the decision-making process.
In this manner, it pursues to engage the local community as an active player in the protected area’s management.
Cultural Heritage conservation subprogram
This subprogram includes activities related to the Valdivian Coastal Reserve’s cultural heritage. Specifically, this program supports the development of baselines and records necessary for the conservation of the tangible cultural heritage, and also to coordinate and/or execute its surveillance.
Similarly, this subprogram must be coordinated with the Environmental and Patrimonial Education Program for the development of any related educational activities.
Community Development subprogram
Its objective is to contribute to the sustainable development of the local communities. As such, it aims to:
A – Allow the benefits created by the influx of visitors to the Valdivian Coastal Reserve and surrounding areas to be internalized by the local community
Tourism is among the principal mechanisms for protected areas to generate revenue. The Valdivian Coastal Reserve uses tourism in general and, more specifically, community-based ecotourism as a means to support the development of the local community.
Therefore, most of the benefits associated with tourism are transferred to communities through concessions and by subjecting tourists’ access to the protected areas to the acquisition of the services of local guides, whom receive prior training as well as technical assistance.
B – Create mechanisms and conditions that allow the local community to capitalize on the ecosystem services provided by the protected area
The Valdivian Coastal Reserve includes ecosystems that provide important services to the community. In this manner, it is in condition to support initiatives for the sustainable exploitation of resources within the Reserve or its buffer areas, to the extent that such use would not compromise the viability of the conservation targets (biological, cultural, and human welfare).
The mechanisms to support these initiatives include, but are not limited to, the transfer of water rights, concessions to establish support infrastructure for fishermen’s unions, support for communitary livestock management, support for the management of sustainable productive projects, and so forth.