Michel Ayoub looks over his property in Baskinta. Photo by Joseph Kiwan
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Donning a navy blue Adidas tracksuit, a beige bucket hat and worn boots, 70-year-old Michel Ayoub scaled a narrow ledge set high on a cliff amid his rocky hills with ease.Fearing the instability of Lebanon's economy during the early 1980s, Ayoub purchased over 50,000 square meters of the forested land where he had spent much of his childhood.In 2011, Ayoub was approached by a team of Saint Joseph University researchers led by biodiversity specialist Dr. Magda Bou Dagher Kharraf. The researchers, already in their fourth year surveying Lebanon's flora, discovered that Ayoub's property was home to several species of plant native to the country.Kharraf had decided that, rather than waiting for the conclusion of their research, which was intended to help the Environment Ministry prioritize their conservations efforts, the researchers would begin "emergency interventions". Three microreserves have been established during the researchers' 10-year survey: Ayoub's private property in Baskinta, a section of religious land in south Lebanon's Mazraat Sarada and a piece of municipal land in Kesrouan's Ehmej.In the south, the researchers found themselves consulting religious leaders whose lands played host to endemic and endangered species.In the same year, Horsh Ehden was established in north Lebanon as the country's first nature reserve.
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