Global environmental challenges
U.S. and Mexico to work on border conservation
When the United States and Mexico talk of cooperation over their shared border, that usually means working to stamp out drug trafficking and gun running. But this week the two neighbors put their shoulders behind a gentler effort: safeguarding a unique area of wilderness straddling the Rio Grande River.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Minister Juan Elvira on Tuesday announced a plan to enhance conservation in the area around Big Bend, in Texas, and El Carmen in the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila.
The area of adjoining parks and protected areas includes high desert, rugged mountains and plunging canyons that together form one of the borderland’s most haunting natural landscapes, far from troubled cities where drug-related killings are rife.
The area includes the Rio Grande River – known as the Rio Bravo south of the border in Mexico — and 3 million acres of parks and protected areas. It is home to more than 450 species of birds, a number of them unique to the borderlands, including the Mexican duck, the Lucifer hummingbird, the Mexican jay and the Colima warbler.
The joint announcement revives a bilateral conservation effort begun in 1944, when the presidents of the United States and Mexico exchanged letters on the creation of the Big Bend National Park in Texas, which envisaged the conservation of the shared ecosystems on both sides of the border. Mexico later established the Cañon de Santa Elena and Maderas del Carmen protected areas in Chihuahua and Coahuila.
“Building upon our shared history of ecosystem and species conservation, the plan will develop a model of bi-national cooperation for the conservation and enjoyment of shared ecosystems for current and future generations,” Salazar said in a news release posted on the U.S. Department of the Interior web site. Salazar announced the plan in conjunction with the North American Leaders Summit in Guadalajara , Mexico, where U.S. President Barack Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, met on Sunday and Monday to discuss issues including trade, climate change and drug trafficking.
Salazar said that he and Elvira would develop a plan to enhance coordination in the area and report back to Obama and Calderon in six months’ time.
(Photo: Big Bend’s 5,400 ft Casa Grande in fog, photo credit: National Park Service)