WWF celebrates the joint declaration of the Big Bend as a Natural Area of Binational Interest made by Mexico and the United States
- For over a decade, WWF has facilitated the collaboration of a binational team comprised of protected area managers, federal agencies, universities, NGOs and local communities of both countries.
BIG BEND, TX.- A ceremony to declare the Big Bend región as a Natural Area of Binational Interest took place this Monday at the Big Bend National Park, presided by the Mexican Secretary of the Environment Juan Rafael Elvira Quezada, and the head of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar.
This region is named after the big bend that the Rio Grande/Río Bravo forms between the states of Texas, Chihuahua and Coahuila, marking the U.S.-Mexico border and providing a vital source of water and vegetation for wildlife and human communities. The binational declaration encompasses the protected areas of Cañon de Santa Elena, Maderas del Carmen, Ocampo and Monumento Río Bravo del Norte in México, along with the Big Bend National Park in the U.S.
For over a decade, WWF has facilitated the collaboration of a binational team comprised of protected area managers, federal agencies, universities, NGOs and local communities on both countries. Currently, over 30 community groups, agencies and institutions participate in joint efforts to conserve the Rio Grande/Río Bravo, in the Big Bend region.
Local citizens from both countries regularly attend the binational planning meetings, and form the work brigades which have implemented restoration activities at priority river stretches during at least two months per year in the past three years. WWF assisted them in the process to obtain binational work permits that allowed them to work on both river banks. With the cooperation of the Big Bend National Park, the Texas Park Service and the Mexican Natural Protected Areas Commission (CONANP) it has been possible to restore 160 kilometers of river banks.
The rich biodiversity of this region includes 333 native species of birds, 23 native fish species, and 76 native reptile and amphibian species. The main threats to its survival are the excessive water extraction and impoundment along the Rio Grande/Río Bravo, which have affected water quality and peak flows, and modified the morphology of the river channel. Seven fish species have been extirpated and there is a significant reduction in the extension and distribution of riparian vegetation, aggravated by the increased distribution of exotic invasive plants (specifically salt cedar –Tamarix ramossisima–, and giant cane –Arundo donax–).
During the binational meeting that took place on May, 2010, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, issued a joint statement expressing their commitment to manage this region in a way that would strengthen security and protect the area for the conservation of wildlife, ecosystem restoration, climate change adaptation, fire management, and exotic species control.
“A result of the ambitious binational environmental program launched by Julia Carabias and Bruce Babbit more than 10 years ago, today’s event at the Big Bend represents a landmark in the Mexico-United States cooperation, showing that species, ecosystems, and the threats facing them – such as climate change – know no borders and must be addressed binationally,” said Omar Vidal, General Director of WWF Mexico, at the end of the ceremony.
"Undoubtedly, the issue of water is fundamental for both people and ecosystems at the Big Bend and the entire Chihuahuan Desert. Water represents the biggest challenge that both governments will have to work on during the upcoming years,” added Eugenio Barrios, Director of the Water and Chihuahuan Desert Programs at WWF.
For more information please contact:
Communications Officer, WWF México.
Tel (55) 52 86 56 31 Ext 217.
Note to the editor:
WWF is one of the largest and most experienced independent conservation organizations in the world. WWF was born in 1961 and is known for its Panda symbol. Currently, close to 5 million people cooperate with the WWF and it has a global network that works in more than 100 countries. To learn more about WWF, visit us at: www.wwf.org.mx y www.panda.org