BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK— U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan José Guerra Abud, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne, U.S. Representative Will Hurd, and other local leaders to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Boquillas Port of Entry as well as the ongoing binational conservation initiatives in the region. The Port of Entry facilitates coordination between the two countries in the protection and preservation of the Big Bend/Río Bravo region – North America’s largest and most diverse desert ecosystem.
Jewell and Guerra in Boquillas, Mexico today also signed a U.S.-Mexico Wildfire Protection Agreement to expand collaboration and cooperation across both countries on fire prevention and suppression efforts. Managing wildland fire is a common occurrence along the border and the two countries have cooperated on wildland fire efforts for decades, most recently through an agreement signed in 1999. The agreement signed today extends and expands those efforts.
“As neighbors and partners protecting this diverse and ecologically rich region, the United States and Mexico share a continued commitment toward fulfilling a conservation vision President Roosevelt and President Camacho proposed over sixty years ago,” said Secretary Jewell. “With the support of Secretary Guerra and our counterparts in Mexico, we celebrate the latest steps in the long and productive history of bilateral cooperation in the conservation of natural and cultural resources between the United States and Mexico.”
“Today, the Governments of Mexico and the United States celebrate our continuing commitment to transboundary cooperation,” said Secretary Guerra. “The Big Bend Río Bravo Conservation Initiative is a model envisioned by our Presidents; it is a dream shared by many past generations; and a legacy for present and future ones. In sum, it is an example of the best our governments and people can pursue through cooperation and joint work.”
In 2011, the United States and Mexico agreed to a binational conservation initiative and working plan to continue coordination in the protection and preservation of the Big Bend/Río Bravo region.
As part of these efforts, the two countries established the international Port of Entry facility at Boquillas Crossing within Big Bend National Park. The border checkpoint was closed in May 2002, but it was reopened on April 10, 2013, and it provides an entry point between both countries for visitors and scientists. Travel across the border is primarily by rowboat.
Home to 446 species of birds, 3,600 species of insects, more than 1,300 plants, and 75 species of mammals, the Big Bend region of Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila provide a unique opportunity for scientists, natural resource managers, and park staff to collaborate in areas that will benefit the people, the landscapes, and the wildlife on both sides of the border.
“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. 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.”
Steps taken since the binational conservation initiative include cooperation by the Los Diablos Fire Crew and the National Protected Areas Commission / the National Forestry Commission fire brigades, and the National Park Service removal of more than 20 miles of invasive river cane from the Río Grande.
Big Bend, Maderas del Carmen, and Santa Elena Canyon protected areas, through their sister park relationship, continue to implement cooperative annual work plans that contribute to resource conservation, staff training, and improved binational coordination along a shared boundary.
In addition, the Science and Resource Management Division at Big Bend National Park, in conjunction with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sul Ross State University, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, and partner agencies in Mexico have been engaged in a multi-faceted conservation program for the Big Bend region and corresponding Monumento Rio Bravo del Norte stretch of the Rio Grande and its tributaries.
In the late 1930s, President Roosevelt began exploring options with Mexico for the designation of an international park in the Big Bend Region of Texas and Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. Over fifty years later, Mexico established Canon de Santa Elena in Chihuahua and Maderas del Carmen in Coahuila protected areas. In June 2009, Mexico designated Ocampo Natural Protected Area, filling the gap and forming a contiguous set of protected areas across from Big Bend National Park.
The National Park Service manages 250 miles of the Big Bend Reach section of the Rio Grande River and the Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas manages nearly 300 miles through the Monumento Natural Río Bravo del Norte. Collaborative conservation efforts include the establishment of ecological monitoring protocols, tributary assessment and reforestation, a study of transboundary aquifers, and exotic plant management.
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