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.
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.
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.
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 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
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
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society
Naturaleza y Cultura Internacional
Northern Jaguar Project
Pathways: Wildlife Corridors of New Mexico
Red Ambiental Mexicana
Red Fronteriza de Salud y Ambiente
Reserva Ecológica el Edén
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
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
Marco Antonio Lazcano
Octavio Monroy Vilchis
Juan Carlos Faller