Private reserves have been established in many countries around the world, dramatically expanding the conservation provided to biodiversity in public parks by voluntarily protecting buffer zones. Despite their smaller size (relative to public parks) on an individual basis, in aggregation these private reserves are significant providers of environmental services.
So far the Nicaraguan Red de Reservas Silvestres Privadas includes 50 private reserves that protect 7,467 hectares—18,453 acres—of various ecosystems. Each one has renewable status as a reserve for ten years at a time, and is exempted from income taxes for ten years, property taxes for whatever amount of time the land is a private wildlife reserve, and retail sales taxes on goods that contribute to the reserve.
The Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) supports certification of conservation activities, includes the private reserves in sustainability workshops, and helps bring teams of scientist investigators to the reserves to conduct studies like the one done at Morgan’s Rock/El Aguacate. Among other things, the reserve owners must make a yearly management plan, comply with environmental norms, and protect the wildlife inside their property. Some of the required contents of a management plan include diagnostics of ecosystems, biodiversity, sites of cultural/historical/scenic value, hydrogeology, actual/potential use of land, and environmental services. MARENA also requires zone assignments that regulate biodiversity conservation, use of natural resource, administrative infrastructure (including guards), and cultural traditions of nearby communities.
Ecotourism can provide the funding to sustain these reserves by generating revenue greater than the costs of maintenance, and in practice can protect natural resources and increase the standard of living for nearby residents. MARENA encourages the establishment of ecotourism ventures such as Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, which has contributed greatly to local livelihoods by supporting education, investing in community projects, and purchasing mostly local goods and services. In addition to providing tourists diverse nature learning experiences, Morgan’s Rock is close to Nicaraguan protected areas such as Reserva National Volcan Mombacho, Refugio de Vida Silvestre Rio Escalante Chacocente, and Costa Rican Parque Nacional Guanacaste, Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, and Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja. Proximity to these parks and reserves adds to Morgan’s Rock’s effectiveness in conservation by helping create a biological corridor for migratory birds and other wildlife.
When coupled with public parks, private nature reserves contribute greatly to biodiversity conservation. By formally protecting habitat, inviting tourists to participate in zero-impact activities, and involving local communities in conservation, private areas like Morgan’s Rock can utilize ecotourism to achieve ecological, economical, and social sustainability.