The Tsimané Mosetene Regional Council (CRTM), WCS’s local conservation partner in the montane rainforests of Bolivia, received the 2010 Equator Prize at an awards ceremony on September 20. The council was honored as one of 25 local communities working to reduce poverty through sustainable development and the conservation of biodiversity. The ceremony was held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

A representative of the council, Clemente Caimany Josecita, accepted the Equator Prize for CRTM as well as a Special Recognition Prize for Applied Indigenous Knowledge, along with $5,000 and $15,000, respectively, for the honors. The prize is sponsored by the Equator Initiative, a partnership between the United Nations, governments, civil society, and grassroots organizations.

With technical support from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the CRTM council helped formulate a strategic plan to conserve the wildlife and habitats of the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve, while also benefiting the reserve’s indigenous Tsimané (or Chimane) and Mosetene communities. The partnership works to preserve local traditions, improve local livelihoods, and promote education, in addition to preventing illegal land settlements, illegal logging, and other unsustainable activities.

“We commend our local partners for their work in promoting local livelihoods while protecting the Pilón Lajas region’s rich natural heritage,” said Dr. Avecita Chicchón, Director for WCS’s Latin America and the Caribbean Program. “We are all the beneficiaries of their success.”

The Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve was created in 1992 in order to conserve biodiversity and improve the living conditions of its local residents, the Tsimané and Mosetene communities. In addition to these peoples, the reserve is home to the spectacled bear, jaguar, and 332 species of birds. Together with the adjacent Madidi and Apolobamba protected areas,
Pilón Lajas makes up the largest swath of montane rainforests in the tropical Andes.

So far, the efforts of the CRTM have resulted in the consolidation of indigenous property rights of nearly 1,500 square miles. In addition, the CRTM has helped establish a sustainable forestry management plan and created an association of organic honey producers and organizations for coffee and cocoa producers. It has also protected important water basins that supply water to more than 8,000 people in the surrounding region, and leveraged support for the construction of schools for 14 communities.