Solana Beach resident Ivan Gayler was honored for his conservation work in southern Ecuador during a sacred indigenous ceremony on Aug. 28 in the upper Amazon. This ceremony also launched the environmental policy of the newly elected Prefect of the Zamora Chinchipe Province.
Two other North County residents, filmmaker Ira Opper and electrical engineer Larry Jones, joined Gayler at the celebration.
Gayler was invited into an inner circle of 50 indigenous and local leaders who participated in an ancient purification ritual as spectators watched in Zamora's central soccer stadium.
The new governor, Salvador Quishpe is a member of the indigenous Saraguro people, and recently supported the UNESCO reservation of the region as an international Biosphere Reserve. Nature and Culture International, a Del Mar-based nonprofit founded by Gayler in 1996, led the effort to establish the biosphere reserve.
"Our ancestors have given us this Garden of Eden and we are responsible to pass it on intact to our children," the new governor said.
Five municipalities in the region agreed to enact a "conservation tax" and pool their resources to protect rare tropical forests and biodiversity in the area.
The tax amounts to about $2 per month per household and is expected to raise more than $400,000 per year. The average e monthly income in the region is less than $300.
The funds will be deposited in a regional trust for protecting and restoring tropical forests in the provinces of Loja, El Oro and Zamora Chinchipe.
"Local people in Ecuador and Peru are eager to endorse conservation principals. They are anxious to find a path of development that is sustainable and does not destroy the natural resources that they value and treasure," Gayler said. "There is no conflict between our conservation goals and theirs."
Nature and Culture International also announced the establishment of a Rainforest Council, made of individuals who help support the organization by contributing $10,000 or more annually. Rainforest Council members will be invited to quarterly board dinners and have the opportunity to participate in bi-annual excursions to Ecuador and Peru.
"Individual contributions are magnified three-fold by grants from foundations and European governments," Gayler said.