"This sets the stage for official protection of additional Mexican rivers in the future."
Mexico Country Representative for The Nature Conservancy
by Christiana Ferris
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In October 2009, the Mexican federal government put in place the final piece of an enormous bi-national conservation puzzle with the declaration of the Rio Bravo del Norte Natural Monument.
The protection of several hundred miles of the Rio Bravo—known as the Rio Grande north of the border—has created a contiguous conservation area spanning approximately 3.3 million acres (1.3 million hectares) that connects the Maderas del Carmen, Ocampo and Cañon de Santa Elena protected areas in Mexico to Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Black Gap Wildlife Management Area and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River in Texas.
In fact, the decree on the Mexican side of the river extends 137 miles (221km) downstream of where the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River currently ends on the U.S. side, providing an incentive for the U.S. National Park Service to nearly double that protected area and match Mexico’s mileage all the way down to the Amistad National Recreation Area.
This regional conservation effort gives far-ranging species like mountain lions, black bears and desert bighorn sheep the space they need to roam.
“Rio Bravo marks the first time that the Mexican government has used the natural monument classification to designate a river as a protected area,” says Juan Bezaury, the Conservancy’s Associate Director of External Affairs and country representative in Mexico. “This sets the stage for official protection of additional Mexican rivers in the future.”
The Nature Conservancy played a key role in drafting monument boundaries, the justification study and decree language as well as organizing governmental agencies and NGOs on both sides of the border to advance the effort.