Director of Mexican Conservation Org. Wins UNEP Award

Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, Director of long-standing Earth Day Network partner Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda, was selected to receive one of the 2013 Champions of the Earth awards, the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) highest environmental distinction.

Ms. Ruiz Corzo, along with her husband and other local residents, founded the organization in 1987 to preserve the Sierra Gorda region of central Mexico, one of Mexico’s most ecologically diverse ecosystems. In 1997, the group convinced the Mexican government to grant the region Biosphere Reserve status.

Today, over 380,000 hectares are protected through the reserve. Once-threatened wildlife species are now thriving in the region. The Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is lauded as a model of ecosystem management, eco-tourism, land conservation, and community and rural development.

To accomplish its goals, the organization pays local residents to reduce cattle numbers and not cut down trees. It also operates 100 recycling depots in the area and works with 170 local schools to promote environmental stewardship.

“A love for the Earth, safeguarding the sacred fabric of Nature, promoting individual and collective efforts, being alert to emergencies, and maintaining the commitment, creativity and passion to relieve the weight that our society places on the planet; this is what continues to inspire my work,” said Ms. Ruiz Corzo.

The Champions of the Earth awards, launched in 2005, is UNEP’s most prestigious environmental award. 59 individuals and organizations have been recognized through the program. Ms. Ruiz Corzo’s award comes in the ‘Inspiration and Action’ category.

Earth Day Network congratulates Ms. Ruiz Corzo on her well-deserved award. We are proud to have partnered with Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda on several initiatives in the past. In 2010, the organization participated in Earth Day Network’s The Avatar Home Tree Initiative. As part of the project, Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda worked with Bosque Sustenable to plant 125,000 native trees on degraded hillsides in the region. They involved dozens of schools in the project, encouraging environmental stewardship, civic participation, and environmental awareness.

Every year, the group hosts dozens of environmental festivals in local schools on behalf of Earth Day. Their tireless efforts in conservation, community development, and education are truly admirable.