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Fundación Cordillera Tropical

US Office

27 Case Pkwy

Burlington, VT 05401

802-855-7612

info@cordilleratropical.org

Fundación Cordillera Tropical

Ecuador Office

Oficina 412

Jaime Roldos 4-80 y Huaynacapac

Cuenca, EC

802-855-7612

info@cordilleratropical.org

© 2020   Fundacion Cordillera Tropical  

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"Bring diversity back to agriculture. That's what made it work in the first place."
David R. Brower, environmentalist, 1912-2000

Our Story

Fundación Cordillera Tropical (FCT) constructs bridges between the demands of
society to consume natural resources, and the urgency to protect remaining wild
habitats, and restore those that have been altered.

A large glacial lake, surrounded by páramo grassland, in Sangay National Park. 

The smoke comes from a fire lit by shepherds to renovate the grass for their sheep.

Our story began when Sangay National Park was expanded to encompass the
mountainous region called the Nudo del Azuay. Established in 1979, the original
Sangay NP covered about 250,000 hectares (617,500 acres) along the Cordillera
Real in the eastern Andes of Ecuador. In 1992 the Ministry of the Environment
added another 250,000 hectares of montane forest and páramo (native grassland
above treeline) to the south of the original park.

Travelers traverse a high crest of the eastern Andes.  The clouds behind Iván and Wilbur carry moisture from the Amazon basin.

While this expansion represented a marvelous conservation achievement, it also
introduced a momentous challenge because about 30% of the expansion area was
legally titled to agricultural communities and individuals. Although the Ministry of the
Environment formally recognized the legal status of private holdings that pre-dated
the park expansion, the expansion decree declared land use was now the
prerogative of Sangay National Park.


Thus the stage was set for complex conflicts. Authorities informed landowners in the
expanded park areas that they could no longer convert the native vegetation to
pastures or crops, nor collect plants, hunt, or graze cattle in areas where they
traditionally carried out these activities. In addition, if the landowners participated in
these newly prohibited activities, ones they had traditionally done in order to subsist,
they would face sanctions that included fines and incarceration. These farmers,
many indigenous, had long distrusted the outside world, so it was nothing new to be
drawing the short straw.

The agricultural frontier.  Can it be stabilized for the benefit of all?

How does one reconcile world views that prioritize the protection of forested lands
with those that see these lands as resources for eking out a living? The founders of
FCT recognized the need for an organization that would attempt to do just that.
They believed that among frontier inhabitants there must be a way to motivate, not
mandate, the conservation of wild habitats. So, these founders asked, what mix of
environmental education, alternative practices and economic incentives might
accomplish the conservation of titled lands within Sangay National Park while
allowing its inhabitants to sustain equitable livelihoods?


With legal recognition from the Ministry of the Environment in May of 2001,
Fundación Cordillera Tropical began its work to redefine "protection" as applied to a
national park. Its objective was to make conservation both a new source of income
for landowners, and concurrently the stuff of good citizenry.

A family on the agricultural frontier of the Cordillera Real.

In the early years Fundación Cordillera Tropical was a coalition of volunteers
passionate about conservation, but the tasks were too big and too important to be
left to part-timers. Fortunately, the foundation was able to finance a professional
staff beginning in 2008. For our total of 20 years working in and around Sangay NP,
FCT has sought to reconcile the local community’s need to produce food and income
with global imperatives to conserve the region’s astounding biological diversity. The
result has been an evolved kit of conservation tools and interventions, tested and
refined by experience and the selective winnowing of what works.

Puppets teach ecological principles to young and old alike.

In the early years Fundación Cordillera Tropical was a coalition of volunteers
passionate about conservation, but the tasks were too big and too important to be
left to part-timers. Fortunately, the foundation was able to finance a professional
staff beginning in 2008. For our total of 20 years working in and around Sangay NP,
FCT has sought to reconcile the local community’s need to produce food and income
with global imperatives to conserve the region’s astounding biological diversity. The
result has been an evolved kit of conservation tools and interventions, tested and
refined by experience and the selective winnowing of what works.

Ecoregions of the Cordillera Real Oriental, extending from

Colombia through Ecuador to northern Peru

In addition, FCT has a long history of supporting biological, hydrological, and
geomorphological research, and has hosted university student programs in the wild
habitats of southern Sangay and the surrounding areas. This website describes
many of these research activities.


In the coming years FCT plans to apply its experience to other geographic areas
within the upper Amazon watersheds of Ecuador, a region we call the Andean
Amazon. Recognizing that most conservation gains are not only small, but are also
always at imminent risk of being reversed by the forces of development, political
territorialities, mining, and the siren of ever more public infrastructure, FCT is
committed to creating partnerships that will both benefit agriculture frontier residents
and anchor conservation gains for the future.


One of those partnerships is with you, the visitor to this site. Our Story is incomplete
without your participation. Please explore the range of FCT activities as described
here and consider helping us get the job done.

Bear researcher Lucas Achig takes his office to the field.

Herpetologist Martin Bustamante photographs a frog poised on an air bromeliad.

FCT_logo_square WHITE 2.png

"To conserve biodiversity in the tropical Andes of Ecuador"