According to the Development Plan for the Population Center of Tijuana, the city has fallen behind many other urban centers in the nation due to its inability to meet minimum standards for open space, parks and natural preserved areas. In addition, unplanned development has forced residents to use all available space, limiting opportunities to create parks.
However, some pockets of undeveloped public and private land along the U.S./Mexico border would allow for the opportunity to create conservation easements. A conservation easement is an encumbrance sometimes including a transfer of usage rights, which creates a legally enforceable land preservation agreement between a landowner and a government agency for the purposes of conservation. It restricts real estate development of commercial and industrial uses, and certain other activities on a property to a mutually agreed upon level. The property remains the private property of the landowner.
The Tijuana-based nonprofit Alter Terra has decided to address the lack of open space by identifying, locating, preparing support documentation, developing plans and negotiating with the land owners and local, state and federal authorities to obtain permits to operate a network of conservation easements. Land available in the vicinity of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Tijuana River Valley creates an additional opportunity to foster wetland interpretation in Mexico, similar to existing programs in the United States.
Alter Terra has integrated a conservation easement task force in partnership with various city agencies and the state of Baja California. This task force meets regularly to provide technical support in the process of negotiating and obtaining permits. The nonprofit is also working at three pilot sites, where restoration efforts are under way, thanks to a generous grant from the San Francisco-based nonprofit Earth Island Institute, and in-kind contributions from the State Public Services Commission and the city of Tijuana.
By fall 2009, Alter Terra hopes to finalize all the paperwork to legalize the first bi-national conservation easement at Los Sauces Canyon; the land is owned by the city of Tijuana and the designation requires a final approval by the city council. Los Sauces is directly connected to Border Field State Park.
By spring 2010, under a land trust, a parcel owned by the city of Tijuana in Los Laureles Canyon will be transferred to Alter Terra. At the lowest portion of the Matadero sub-basin, the 16-acre parcel neighboring the County of San Diego Tijuana River Valley has been officially requested to operate a third conservation easement.