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Tree Planting Effort Tops One Million Mark

…in Peru's Vilcanota Mountains

900+ Local People Help Plant Over 57,000 Trees in Latest Reforestation Effort

(Washington, D.C., February 25, 2015) In an effort that is ultimately expected to benefit several imperiled bird species, including the Royal Cinclodes and the White-browed Tit-Spinetail, more than 900 people from four central Peruvian communities came together recently in a tree planting festival that resulted in 57,100 saplings being planted in a single day, bringing the total number of trees planted in a larger reforestation effort to over one million.

Two species of Polylepis trees were planted. This often gnarled tree, which grows to about 50 feet tall with a trunk up to seven feet thick, is a member of the rose family and forms forests that grow at higher elevations than any other flowering tree on earth. These trees were planted primarily by indigenous residents of the communities of Huilloc, Patacancha, and Rumira Sondormayo.

In addition, help was provided by porters from Amazonas Explorer (a local tour company), park rangers form the San Marcos Private Conservation Area in the central Peruvian region of Huánuco, and by volunteer parents and children from many other donor institutions and friends of the Peruvian conservation organization Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN). The effort was organized by ECOAN as part of the first Queuña Raymi Festival in the district of Ollantaytambo. Queuña is the local word for the Polylepis tree.

“This has been part of a massive reforestation campaign designed to mitigate climate change here in Peru. Without the exceptional multi-year support of our partner American Bird Conservancy (ABC), this effort would have been impossible,” said Constantino Aucca Chutas, President of ECOAN.

“We will continue this festival annually. With these newly planted Polylepis trees, ECOAN and participating communities have now planted more than one million trees in the Vilcanota Mountains alone,” said Gregorio Ferro Meza, who coordinates this project and along with Aucca is one of the co-founders of ECOAN.

This festival was widely covered by Peruvian national media, including La Republica and Rumbos. “Planting queuña signifies hope for our future and for the medicinal plants that we traditionally use,” said Tomasa Cruz Quispe of the Patacancha community.

Polylepis forests in the Vilcanota Mountains support a community of endemic and threatened birds including the Royal Cinclodes, Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant, and White-browed Tit-Spinetail. These forests are also vital for protecting local watersheds that farmers depend on for watering crops.

“ABC has helped ECOAN with this project for more than a decade, resulting in the creation of seven community-based private conservation areas spanning more than 15,500 acres in the Vilcanota Mountains,” said Dr. Daniel Lebbin, Director of International Programs at ABC. This support included establishment of tourism and trekking routes to generate more funding for community activities and reserve management.

“ECOAN is widely recognized for this successful project,” said Dr. Lebbin, “which helped the organization win the prestigious Awely Jean-Marc Vichard Conservation and Development Award in 2014. The accompanying cash prize will benefit the Vilcanota project.”

Robert Johns

25th February 2015