Public lands are scarce in Mexico, so effective conservation must involve private parcels and communal lands known as ejidos—both of which can voluntarily be certified as protected areas. Public reserves constitute a designation of public interest across a mosaic of mostly private and communal lands. Below we highlight a few of the core reserves in northern Mexico that are key to implementing the Western Wildway vision:
Bavispe, a National Forest Reserve and Wildlife Refuge, lies only 24 miles (39 kilometers) south of the U.S.-Mexico border, in the heart of the Sky Islands—one of North America’s most ecologically diverse regions. At more than 200,000 hectares, Bavispe provides habitat for jaguars, black bears, ocelots, golden eagles, and many other species of conservation concern. Wildlands Network’s campaign to pressure Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment to recategorize the reserve as a protected area saved it from bureaucratic neglect. Because of its recategorization, the reserve now enjoys the legal certainty of protections.
The Janos Biosphere Reserve protects some of Mexico’s last remaining grasslands and one of the continent’s largest yet most threatened colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs. This 526,000-hectare reserve has been called the Yellowstone of Mexico, with bison, pronghorns, and vast number of migrating birds evoking the image of that great national park. Janos also provides cross-border connectivity with the U.S. givens its contiguity with New Mexico to the north.
The Northern Jaguar Reserve protects more than 22,000 hectares of habitat for the northernmost breeding population of jaguars in the world. This exemplary private conservation effort is spearheaded by 2 of our partner groups, Naturalia and Northern Jaguar Project. The reserve is also home to more than 150 bird species, and has become a hub for researchers studying the wildlife of Sonora.
One of the first officially certified, privately protected areas of Mexico, Los Ojos (35,600 hectares) is a leading example of habitat restoration in Sonora. Despite its long history of farming and cattle ranching, this richly diverse region hosts black bears, native fish, and recently reintroduced beavers, and protects a crucial corridor for jaguars attempting to recolonize the U.S. Los Ojos is also well within reach of Mexican wolves dispersing from reintroduction sites in Chihuahua.
Rancho El Aribabi lies at the bottleneck of a jaguar, black bear and ocelot corridor linking Mexico to the United States. For more than 10 years, its owners have attempted to blend conservation, ranching and sustainable hunting to protect these wild species, though it hasn’t been easy. The ranch is now targeted for a road expansion, which, while necessary in the region, could threaten habitat connectivity for many species. Because of its critical importance to connectivity, Wildlands Network is supporting Rancho El Aribabi as an environmental advisor for the new road project, looking to integrate wetlands restoration and wildlife crossings into the mitigation plans. We are also fostering increased U.S. support for achieving Rancho El Aribabi’s sustainability vision.
The adjacent Tutuaca and Papigochic Reserves jointly protect 659,600 hectares of invaluable wildlands, including some of the last old-growth forests in Mexico. Inside the Tutuaca Natural Protected Area, the ejidos (communal lands) Tutuaca and Conoachi protect a 4,114-hectare sanctuary for endangered thick-billed parrots—a conservation success story that began when Wildlands Network and our partner organization, Pronatura, organized an agreement with the Tutuaca community to prohibit logging and regularly monitor parrot nests on a 2,123-hectare parcel.
Mexican wolves have been released in the vicinity of Campo Verde in the recent past, as part of Mexico’s effort to recover this endangered subspecies of gray wolf. The 108,000-hectare Natural Protected Area is mostly covered with conifer and oak forests, which provide habitat for black bears and cougars. Rare thick-billed parrots have also been sighted here.