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Mexico Program

Wildlands Network launched its Mexico Program in 2015 to expand the visionary Western Wildway into the Northern Sierra Madre Occidental. Our staff in Sonora collaborates with Mexican conservation organizations, government agencies, academic institutions, and concerned citizens to advocate for threatened wildlands and wildlife in northern Mexico, and to improve wildlife connectivity between Sonora and Arizona. We are also raising awareness in the U.S. about the unique challenges to achieving landscape-level conservation in Mexico and engaging in opportunities to improve national policies that affect wildlife.

Our achievements in northern Mexico include:

  • Ensuring the prolonged protection of the Bavispe Natural Protected Area through a campaign that pressured Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment to renew its category, providing it with legal certainty and ending speculation that the reserve would be opened up to mining interests. We are currently supporting CONANP, Mexico’s parks agency, in crafting the area’s management plan.
  • Protecting endangered thick-billed parrots in the northern Sierra Madre Mountains by buying out timber rights in the Cebadillas parcel of Ejido Tutuaca, the parrots’ largest nesting ground. We are currently reviewing opportunities to update this agreement and secure long-term protection of the site.
  • Protecting over 16 miles of sensitive riparian habitat in Rancho El Aribabi by negotiating with Mexico’s Transportation Authorities to reroute a highway bypass planned in the area.
  • Advancing knowledge of wildlife crossings through site visits with Mexico’s Transportation Authorities, workshops with road construction professionals and collaborations with lawmakers championing progressive legislation that would make wildlife crossings mandatory nationwide.
  • Successfully advocating for the expansion of the 24,400-hectare Northern Jaguar Reserve in northeastern Sonora, co-managed by Naturalia and the Northern Jaguar Project.
  • Teaming up with the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative to advance a bi-national plan for climate adaptation that includes wildlife corridors in the Sky Islands region and the grasslands of Chihuahua.
  • Launching our Borderlands Campaign to enhance connectivity and protections in critical core areas along the Mexico-U.S. borderlands region.

Mitigating Highway 2 for Wildlife Connectivity

Mexico’s Highway 2 closely parallels the U.S.-Mexico border and spans 1,219 miles (1,962 kilometers) from Tijuana in Baja, California, to Lauro Villar in Tamaulipas.

The western section of Highway 2 crosses the Sky Islands region (from Ímuris, Sonora to Janos, Chihuahua). This region, named after its numerous small mountain ranges surrounded by a sea of grasslands and desert, is home to an extraordinary array of wildlife, from striped skunks and Mexican wolves to black bears and jaguars.

Highway 2 divides the habitats of these and other wide-ranging animals that may be reluctant to traverse such a formidable barrier. Animals attempting to cross the highway in search of food or mates are at grave risk of being struck by motorists: research conducted by Sky Island Alliance and Wildlands Network indicates that as many as 2,000 vertebrates are killed annually on this road in wildlife-vehicle collisions. Wildlife-vehicle collisions are very dangerous (and costly) for people, too.

Wildlands Network initiated and leads the Wildlife Linkages Binational Partnership to reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions on Highway 2 and to mitigate the effects of recent highway expansions. We are negotiating with Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transportation for the construction of wildlife underpasses and overpasses at high-risk locations along the highway so that animals can cross safely and roam free.

In 2016, we coordinated a trip for Mexican transportation authorities to visit wildlife crossing structures north of Tucson and potential mitigation sites along Highway 2 in Sonora.

In 2017, we identified every culvert and bridge along Highway 2 that could potentially be retrofitted to become an effective wildlife crossing at a reduced cost. We also introduced over 100 highway professionals in Sonora to the concept and basics of wildlife corridors and crossings.

Your support will help us continue our important work along Highway 2 and elsewhere in the borderlands region, where habitat connectivity is increasingly threatened by political ambitions to further divide the landscape.

Header image courtesy Northern Jaguar Project and Naturalia