Birder's Guide

MAY 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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32 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2017 Community Conservation in Peru rainfall patterns, these forest remnants help ensure consistent water supplies for local people as well as for bustling urban areas and tourist venues in the Sacred Valley below. Connected to the Spirits of the Mountains Constantino Aucca grew up in these mountains. He's president of Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN), a lead- ing bird-conservation organization that works with U.S. partner American Bird Conservancy (ABC) in the Vilcanota range to protect and restore forests. The work has both ecological and spiritual meaning for him. "Since childhood, we learned from our parents about ancient practices and their meaning," Aucca says. That includes respect for apus, pro- tective mountain spirits often associated with the highest snow-capped peaks. "These places are the origins of our gods, where our water originates, and home to our spiritual protectors like pumas and condors," Aucca says. "In August, we make food offerings and blessings to the apus and mother Earth, including all the protectors, to give thanks for so much provided to all of us." Nemesio Echame Melo shares that sense of deep connection to the moun- tains. Melo is the president of the local Huilloc community, which is in the pro- cess of creating a protected area for its forests. "The queuña forest represents a relic of our ancestors," Melo says. "It's part of our identity, just as our clothing is. The forest represents our experience." Huilloc and other indigenous com- munities have turned that ancestral connection into conservation action. Working with ECOAN and ABC, in- digenous communities of the Vilcanota range have planted more than one mil - lion Polylepis trees to restore the an- n Top: Polylepis forests grow at higher elevations than any forests on Earth. Photo © Mike Parr n Bottom: Community members carry Polylepis saplings, tools, and their babies on the way to replant forests. Photo © ECOAN

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