In a valley to the west of the Intag is the Los Cedros Protected Forest, a 17,000 acre preserve founded in the early 1990s by José DeCoux. This forest represents some of the last un-spoilt primary cloud forest on the western slope of the Andes in all of Ecuador. It is home to a vast array of rare and endangered species including some of the last wild habitat for the Brown-Headed Spider Monkey, the most endangered primate on the planet. All told, there are more than 200 endangered species known to live at Los Cedros, including jaguars and spectacled bears, orchids and birds.
The Canadian mining company Cornerstone bought the mineral rights to more than two-thirds of this protected forest in 2017, without consultation or consent from the preserve managers or the surrounding communities. They have already begun the initial stages of mineral prospecting within the protected forest, despite ongoing legal challenges, including the protections for the Rights of Nature built into the Ecuadorian constitution. Forests like Los Cedros, known as ‘Bosques Protectores’, are wildlands that are protected by the Ecuadorian government from logging and other disturbances. However, the current government has decided that these forests are not protected from mining, and has sold the mineral rights to these lands.
Los Cedros continues to fight the legal status of these mining concessions, even as the mining company has announced plans to start drilling in the near future. The case has been picked up by Ecuador’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land. This ruling will set a precedent for how the constitutionally-guaranteed Rights of Nature are applied in protected forests across Ecuador, with widespread consequences for all 6 million acres of protected forest in the country, and reverberating around the world as either a landmark victory or defeat for endangered species everywhere.