U.S., Mexico Agree on Conservation Plan for Big Bend/Rio Bravo Border

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas, October 25, 2011 (ENS) – Natural resources officials from the United States and Mexico Monday released 267,000 Rio Grande silvery minnows into the river that forms the border between the two countries as part of an ongoing recovery project for the endangered species and the shared protected Big Bend/Rio Bravo region.

Earlier this month, Mexico released 15 bird species on the Mexican side of the border in Chihuahua – two red-tailed Hawks, two roadside hawks, two American kestrels, one gray hawk, two great horned owls, three burrowing owls, and three Cooper’s hawks.

The wildlife releases mark the next steps in a bi-national working plan to protect the Big Bend/Rio Bravo region, North America’s largest and most diverse desert ecosystem, which extends across three million acres of contiguous parks and protected area.

At the wildlife release event, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada announced the next steps the two countries will take in their joint action plan to restore the natural ecosystem, control invasive species, preserve wildlife, adapt to climate change, and manage wildfires in the area.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, center, and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira, right, release Rio Grande silvery minnows, October 24, 2011 (Photo courtesy DOI)

They said the collaborative efforts of their two governments are of great importance in the context of the shared border, and will benefit more than 268 miles of rivers, some 14 percent of the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

When Big Bend National Park was established on June 12, 1944, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote to President Manuel Avila Camacho of Mexico, “I do not believe that this undertaking in the Big Bend will be complete until the entire park area in this region on both sides of the Rio Grande forms one great international park.”

While the area is not yet a transnational park, it is what the two secretaries declared to be “a natural area of longstanding binational interest.”

“As neighbors and partners in conservation, the United States and Mexico share more than just a border,” said Secretary Salazar. “We share a commitment toward fulfilling a conservation vision President Roosevelt and President Camacho proposed over 60 years ago. With the support of Secretary Elvira and our counterparts in Mexico, today’s announcement marks a major step in turning this vision into a reality.”

“Today, the Governments of Mexico and the United States write a new chapter to our strategic partnership,” said Secretary Elvira. “We celebrate putting into actions a model of collaboration for transboundary conservation.”

Secretary Salazar, left, and Secretary Elvira sign the bi-national Big Bend/Rio Bravo action plan, October 24, 2011 (Photo courtesy DOI)

“The Big Bend-Rio Bravo Natural Area of Binational Interest is a model envisioned by our Presidents; it is a dream shared by many past generations; and a legacy for present and future ones,” said Elvira. “In sum, it is an example of the best our governments and people can pursue through cooperation and joint work.”

“When you come to an area as remote and as beautiful as Big Bend, it truly changes your perception of what a border is and what a border can be,” said U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne.

“There is a line – the river in this case – that politically marks the boundaries of our two countries,” said Wayne. “But for a tourist, for a park ranger, for a conservationist, and for anyone who has visited this spectacular place, one thing is clear: what we share here – the seamless flow of nature across both banks of the river – is far stronger and far more enduring than what divides us.”

Inhabited by 75 species of mammals, 446 species of birds, 3,600 species of insects, more than 1,500 plant species, the Big Bend region of Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila are the focus of scientists, natural resource managers, and park staff on both sides of the border.

The new action plan aims to accomplish: restoration of riparian ecosystems; management and control of exotic, invasive riparian vegetation; restoration of the once common and now endangered Rio Grande Silvery Minnow; monitoring and management of diseases in domestic and wild animals; and coordination of bi-national programs to protect and restore threatened species.

The Cooperative Action for Conservation in the Big Bend/Rio Bravo Region working plan was developed in coordination with the U.S. National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and other partner agencies. Implementation has already begun.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.