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New law in Sonora strengthens the state’s private protected areas for conservation

Sonoran legislators have unanimously approved a measure that will help conserve private land across the state. Conservation experts see it as a major step forward in protecting habitat and wildlife.

The new law changes both environmental and municipal tax laws to strengthen existing private conservation areas and promote new ones in Sonora.

In addition to economic and market incentives for designating property as a voluntary conservation area, the measure allows landowners who set aside 50% or more of their property for conservation purposes to receive up to 80% off property taxes, if they meet certain requirements.

The law also creates something akin to a conservation easement that would provide long-term protection for the land even if it changes hands.

Carlos Castillo, a senior conservation specialist with the nonprofit Wildlands Network, called the amendments a huge win for conservation in Sonora. He said creating conservation areas on private lands is one of the most important ways to protect the environment and create ecological corridors for jaguars, ocelots, black bears and other Sonoran species.

"And obviously the ultimate goal of all of this is to mitigate somewhat the effects of climate change, of an mass extinctions and the loss of biodiversity. And it puts Sonora at the forefront in terms of private conservation," he said.

Other states in Mexico are working to pass similar laws, he said, and Sonora's success will hopefully be an example to other states working to strengthen private conservation efforts.

Kendal Blust was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.