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Ajos-Bavispe Reserve Recategorized to Protected Area – Success!

This wide, scenic shot shows tall trees in the foreground, a blanket of snow in the middle, and a lightly snow-powdered, tall mountain range rising up in the background against a blue sky.

This is post 3 of 4 in "Protecting the Ajos-Bavispe Reserve."

In this series, we follow the protection of Ajos-Bavispe, a special reserve of biodiversity in the center of Mexico's Sonoran Sky Islands. For a long time, the protected status of this unique place was uncertain. Learn about Ajos Bavispe's history, how we lobbied for its recategorization to a protected place, and the future of conservation in the reserve. All posts in this series…

Last year, we let you know the protected status of the Ajos-Bavispe reserve in the borderlands of Sonora had been in bureaucratic limbo for several years, despite the steps taken by CONANP — Mexico’s parks agency — to update its category as a protected area and provide it with legal certainty.

This wide, scenic shot shows tall trees in the foreground, a blanket of snow in the middle, and a lightly snow-powdered, tall mountain range rising up in the background against a blue sky.
Photo: Mario Cirett

On Monday, May 22, SEMARNAT (the Secretariat of the Environment) finally recategorized it, protecting the unique biodiversity of this core area for the protection of jaguars, black bears, Mexican wolves, thick-billed parrots and many other species listed in one or both countries along the border.

History of Legal Uncertainty

Inaction by SEMARNAT threatened the reserve’s continued protection and led to speculation over the intent of the current Mexican administration to leave its 200,000 hectares of forests open to mining operations and other extractive uses, incompatible with the 1939 decree signed by President Lázaro Cárdenas.

Wildlands Network’s Mexico Program led an effort with the Mexican office of the Center for Biological Diversity to petition the government to publish the re-categorization of Ajos-Bavispe (legally known as Bavispe) as an Area for the Protection of Flora and Fauna, a modern category with clearly defined objectives and regulations.

Trees clutter the foreground of this scenic shot, with one tree trunk dividing the photo in half and a rolling green landscape in the background.
Photo: Luis Portillo

More than 40 organizations and several individuals from both Mexico and the United States joined our petition, in a show of international solidarity along the borderlands, contrasting with the dividing rhetoric taking center stage in recent months.

Wildlands Network also assisted in coordinating and informing two Mexican NGOs, which filed a lawsuit against SEMARNAT for neglecting to update Ajos-Bavispe. This lawsuit, part of an encouraging trend of organized citizens holding their government accountable in court, was the first of its kind in Mexico.


SEMARNAT finally published in Mexico’s Official Journal of the Federation (think Mexico’s version of the Federal Register) the Secretarial Agreement updating the category of Ajos-Bavispe to an Area for the Protection of Flora and Fauna, thus ending years of uncertain protections for this special habitat.

Our contacts in CONANP have expressed gratitude for Wildlands Network’s interest in giving the issue the visibility and importance it merits, pushing its governing agency to action. And while the lawsuit will be dismissed as moot by the District Court that filed it, it may have served its purpose in leaving little room for authorities to disregard their mandate to protect the habitats and species of Ajos-Bavispe.

What’s Next?

This wide, scenic shot shows a snow- and tree-covered mountain range rising toward the horizon.
Photo: Luis Portillo

The reserve’s budget is still only 20% of what it was in previous years, and no director has been hired to lead it. Wildlands Network will explore what alternatives there are to strengthen it, petitioning for an increase in its budget, for the designation of an experienced leader at its helm, and for the establishment of its advisory board, on which we look forward to serving as part of a growing community of borderlands conservation groups.

Thank You, Partners!

On behalf of everyone here at Wildlands Network, thank you to all the groups and individuals who sent or joined a letter to the Secretary of the Environment. We all came together and did it!

Alex Olivera at Centro para la Diversidad Biológica
Álamos Wildlands Alliance
Alianza Jaguar
Alianza Nacional para la Conservación del Jaguar
Americas for Conservation and Art
Asesores en Recursos Naturales y Sistemas de Chiapas S.C.
Asociación de Investigación y Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos y su Hábitat
Azul Project
Center for Large Landscape Conservation
Centro de Estudios de Desiertos y Océanos
Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental
Conciencia y Educación Ambiental
Defenders of Wildlife
Fondo para la Comunicación y la Educación Ambiental
Friends of the Sonoran Desert
Green Latinos
Greenpeace México
Grupo Efferus
Jaguar Conservancy
Jamut Boo’o
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society
Naturaleza y Cultura Internacional
Northern Jaguar Project
Pathways: Wildlife Corridors of New Mexico
Primero Conservation
Pronatura Noroeste
Proyecto Jaguar
Red Ambiental Mexicana
Red Fronteriza de Salud y Ambiente
Reserva Ecológica el Edén
Rewilding Institute
Rocky Mountain Wild
San Pedro Watershed Alliance
Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter & Borderlands Program
Sky Island Alliace
Soluciones integrales ambientales y socioculturales del sur
Telar Social México
Terra Peninsular
The City Project
Tutuaca Mountain School
Western Wildlife Conservancy

Carlos Robles ADVC El Aribabi
Roberto de la Maza ADVC Kolitji

Individual members of the Jaguar and other Wild Felines Expert Conservation and Management Group:
Rodrigo Núñez- President
Gerardo Ceballos
Epigmenio Cruz
Marco Antonio Lazcano
Carlos Manterola
Rodrigo Medellín
Octavio Monroy Vilchis
Juan Carlos Faller
Eugenia Pallares
Francisco Remolina
Yamel Rubio
Erik Saracho
Rausel Sarmiento
Heliot Zarza

More posts from Protecting the Ajos-Bavispe Reserve

  1. Ajos-Bavispe: Una Reserva en la Congeladora Burocrática, July 29, 2016
  2. Ajos-Bavispe: A Reserve Left In the Bureaucratic Cooler, July 29, 2016
  3. Ajos-Bavispe Reserve Recategorized to Protected Area – Success!, May 26, 2017
  4. Reserva Ajos-Bavispe re-categorizada, May 31, 2017

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