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Puerto Vallarta

Los Horcones River Update: We’re Winning But Still Need To Fight!

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Some natural areas don’t become a conservation priority until the moment we are poised to lose them. The Los Horcones River Canyon is now at that moment.

While only about a 40-minute drive south of Old Town Puerto Vallarta, the Los Horcones River has until now remained well preserved over much of its course from the heights of the Sierra El Cuale (over 2,300 meters) to its mouth at Boca de Tomatlán, and inside the City Limits of PV.

Aside from passing some ranches and a few small villages along the way, most of this river’s course flows through vast stretches of intact forest (pine-oak forest along its upper reaches transitioning to tropical dry forest around 400 meters). Its steep granite walls have helped protect it so far, along with the amazingly diverse flora and fauna that it shelters – river otters, jaguars, and rare orchids included. The Los Horcones river is a living gem of Mexico and cannot be allowed to be destroyed.

In January of 2019, the residents of the fishing and tourism-based village of Boca de Tomatlán found themselves embroiled in a fight against an illegal project threatening to expropriate this river’s water through a dam and pipeline. Purportedly in the name of generating “clean energy,” contractors were given a shady exemption to proceed without the required environmental and social impact studies or permits, and none of the affected communities were ever consulted.

The dam represents a huge danger to our town, in a hurricane like Nora, the dam would breach and our town would be destroyed. The damage that has already occurred – clearing of tropical dry forest (one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems), extirpation of fauna, excavations, and demolition down into the very bedrock along the shores of this river – is alarming.

However, what is more alarming is what is at stake if this river is not protected. Not only will the terrestrial species that depend on this river suffer and die, the Bay of Banderas will lose one of its last significant sources of freshwater.

Of the other significant rivers feeding into the Bay, only the Ameca and Cuale still have a trickle of water making it to the sea year round. The others (Pitillal, Eden, Palo Maria), are already so overexploited that they flow to the sea only during the few months of the rainy season. As the last significant free-flowing river of our region, Los Horcones provides nutrients and a change in salinity that is essential to marine wildlife, including humpback whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.

While we thank the villagers of Boca de Tomatlán for staying strong in their resistance so far, this fight cannot be theirs alone. For all who love Puerto Vallarta, wildlife, whales, our planet – and for those who believe in protecting local cultures and their way of life – this fight is ours, too.

The corrupt and privately owned hydroelectric dam project must be stopped. Help protect the people of Boca de Tomatlan from being driven from their homes and losing their way of life, all for more condo construction in PV.

Thousands of residents agree with the online petition to protect and conserve the Río Los Horcones Canyon and declare it off-limits to real estate predation. This petition, launched in June 2020 has been signed by over 816,000 people – making it one of the most successful petitions in the history of Puerto Vallarta and one of the most critical environmental petitions in all of Mexico.

To view and sign the petition, go to: change.org/RioHorcones (Scroll down for English.)

Written by Dr. Rafael Guzman Mejia for Defensores de Boca de Tomatlán A.C.

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