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Borderlands Program

Political boundaries are meaningless to wild animals, whose natural pathways have long preceded human check stations and border walls.

The goal of Wildlands Network’s Borderlands Program is to ensure that jaguars, ocelots, black bears, and Mexican wolves can move freely through the Sky Islands region of northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S. This iconic landscape, characterized by towering mountains (“islands”) in a subtropical sea of rolling grasslands and other lowland habitats, comprises roughly 75,000 mi² (194,000 km² ) of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, Chihuahua and Sonora.

The Sky Islands are globally treasured for their biodiversity, hosting more than half of all bird species found in the U.S. and a comparable wealth of mammals, reptiles, insects, and plants. Wildlands Network has identified several core areas and habitat corridors that are essential to maintaining this vast network of life.

Program Priorities

Currently, we are enhancing protections in three critical core areas in northern Mexico, including the Bavispe Reserve, the El Aribabi Conservation Ranch, and the private reserves of Cuenca Los Ojos. We are also working to identify and protect habitat corridors on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, which will help facilitate the construction of wildlife crossing structures along major roadways and prevent the expansion of the border wall.

Photo: Myles Traphagen

Among our efforts, we are:

  • Continuing to support Bavispe after our successful campaign to have it recategorized, by partnering with Mexico’s parks agency CONANP to generate a conservation plan for the reserve and its surrounding region;
  • partnering with scientists, communities, human rights organizations, and conservationists to oppose the border wall;
  • consulting with Mexican transportation authorities on behalf of Aribabi Ranch, where we have successfully negotiated the protection of more than 16 miles of riparian habitat from ill-informed plans to build a bypass through the Cocóspera River;
  • developing recommendations for U.S. federal agencies to better manage key wildlife corridors on public lands;
  • collaborating with managers of Los Ojos so that we can include their input on our recommendations for wildlife crossing structures along Highway 2, whose expansion threatens to sever connectivity for black bears, Mexican wolves, and other wildlife.

We are also working closely with the Northern Jaguar Project to develop a Conservation Action Plan for the Northern Jaguar Reserve—a 55,000-acre protected area in northeastern Sonora. We share Northern Jaguar Project’s vision of protecting jaguars in Mexico as a necessary first step to the recovery of this species in the U.S.—coupled with protecting the corridors that jaguars and Mexican wolves could use to reach Arizona. Northern Jaguar Project is a strong supporter of our wildlife crossings project on Highway 2.

Read some of the latest media coverage of our work in the Borderlands:

Photo: Myles Traphagen

Wildlands Network has partnered with numerous organizations and institutions in the Mexico-U.S. borderlands region to achieve its goals, including:

View Embattled Borderlands Story Map