In a move that could set a precedent for a new kind of conservation effort, communal landowners in Mexico turned over an unspoiled island to the federal government. The $3.3 million deal was designed to protect the island, Espiritu Santo, from tourist development. The Manhattan-sized island, which is located 20 miles off the coast of La Paz on the Baja peninsula and is home to one of the region’s most pristine desert ecosystems, was communally owned by mainland Mexicans. There are no permanent inhabitants of the island, although it is occasionally visited by fishing boats and tourists. However, permanent residents do include five species of mammals and reptiles unique to the island. In the past decade, pressure to develop such areas has become all but irresistible, as tourism has increased through the southern tip of Baja. The agreement to protect Espiritu Santo was the result of three years of negotiation; the money for the deal was raised by nonprofit environmental organizations.