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Mexico launches geopark initiative as UdG proposes Primavera Forest as candidate

The Bosque la Primavera, the extensive flora and fauna reserve lying directly west of the Guadalajara metropolitan area, could be transformed into a geopark and become a candidate for membership in Unesco’s highly esteemed Global Geoparks Network (GGN). 

The initiative was outlined at a June 5 press conference by faculty members of the University of Guadalajara (UdG) Center for Social Sciences and Humanities (CUCSH).

Pointing out that housing developments on the Primavera’s perimeter are continually encroaching on the federally “Protected Area,” university investigators suggested that GGN membership would provide the “armor plating” the forest needs to survive in the future. Luis Valdivia, Hildelgardo Gomez and Lucia Gonzalez also noted that ejido and private landowners within the forest boundary are enthusiastic about the idea.

Geoparks are typically nature reserves with outstanding geological features that ordinary people can easily learn to appreciate. At the moment, Unesco has registered 111 such parks around the world, mostly in Europe and Asia. They focus on phenomena such as granite towers, lava domes, glacier landforms, dinosaur trackways, sandstone pillars and places where the earth’s mantle has been pushed right up to the surface.

At the moment, there are only four geoparks in the Americas: two in Canada, one in Brazil and another in Uruguay. That, however, may soon change. 

During a workshop at the end of May at the Institute of Geography in Mexico City, a Unesco team of experts outlined geopark requirements to representatives from Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Mexico, who, in turn, present

ed geopark projects already underway in their respective countries.

“This was truly an event of singular relevance,” noted UNAM researcher Jose Luis Palacio, a long-time promoter of geoparks in Mexico. “We were able to meet with the world’s greatest experts in this field. Then, after all the presentations and meetings, the Unesco team went off to visit six of the proposed geoparks, including two here in Mexico: the mountainous region of La Mixteca near Oaxaca and theextraordinary landforms of La Huasteca of San Luis Potosi.”  A third candidate for geopark status is the mining district of Hidalgo. 

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“All three of these potential geoparks will be evaluated in 2016 by two Unesco experts, who will determine whether they meet the strict requirements of the Global Network,” Palacio said.  

The final decision of the evaluators will be announced in September 2016 at the 7th International Conference on Global Geoparks, scheduled to meet in Great Britain.

I proposed the Primavera Forest’s suitability for geopark status during a presentation at the Third Global Geotourism Conference in Muscat, Oman  in 2011.  Although our local forest is not among the Mexican sites now under consideration for GGN membership,  I believe it has all the characteristics that Unesco looks for in candidates for geopark status. The Primavera Caldera is a federal Protected Area and the site of one of the world’s greatest explosions 95,000 years ago, which ejected 40 cubic kilometers of volcanic rubble (jal) into the air, creating the area now known as Jalisco. Fortunately, the story of this explosion and the lake which occupied the area for up to 20,000 years can be read in the canyon walls of the forest, offering visitors to La Primavera a dramatic lesson in geology as well as a chance to stroll through a gorgeous woods and enjoy a delicious soak in the world-famous Caliente river.

“The Bosque is a natural for geopark status,” he concludes.These and other characteristics of La Primavera are now being documented by the CUCSH team proposing the forest’s transformation into a geopark. Geographer Valdivia says the team is presently registering obsidian deposits and workshops, archaeological ruins, fumaroles, hot and cold bathing pools and bizarrely-shaped Tala Tuff rock formations. {/access}