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U.S., Mexico Agree on Plan to Protect Big Bend/Rio Bravo Region

25 October 2011
Anthony Wayne, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada and Ken Salazar dumping bucket of fish (DOI / Tami A. Heilemann)

Ambassador Anthony Wayne, Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada and Secretary Ken Salazar dump Rio Grande silvery minnows into an enclosure embedded in the Rio Grande.

Washington — Standing in Texas’ Big Bend National Park on October 24, officials from the United States and Mexico announced a plan for continued coordination to protect the Big Bend/Rio Bravo region.

They also released endangered Rio Grande silvery minnows into the Rio Grande.

The working plan, announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, identifies the next steps in preserving North America’s largest and most diverse desert ecosystem, the Department of the Interior said in an October 24 news release.

The Cooperative Action for Conservation in the Big Bend/Rio Bravo Region working plan was developed in close coordination with the U.S. National Park Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and other partner agencies — and implementation has already begun, the department said.

“As neighbors and partners in conservation, the United States and Mexico share more than just a border,” Salazar said at Big Bend. “We share a commitment toward fulfilling a conservation vision President [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt and President [Manuel Ávila] Camacho proposed over 60 years ago. With the support of Secretary Elvira and our counterparts in Mexico, today’s announcement marks a major step in turning this vision into a reality.”

“Today, the governments of Mexico and the United States write a new chapter to our strategic partnership,” Elvira said. “We celebrate putting into actions a model of collaboration for transboundary conservation.”

“The Big Bend-Rio Bravo natural area of binational interest is a model envisioned by our presidents; it is a dream shared by many past generations and a legacy for present and future ones,” Elvira said. “In sum, it is an example of the best our governments and people can pursue through cooperation and joint work.”

“When you come to an area as remote and as beautiful as Big Bend, it truly changes your perception of what a border is and what a border can be,” said U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne. “There is a line — the river in this case — that politically marks the boundaries of our two countries. But for a tourist, for a park ranger, for a conservationist, and for anyone who has visited this spectacular place, one thing is clear: What we share here, the seamless flow of nature across both banks of the river, is far stronger and far more enduring than what divides us.”

Home to 446 species of birds, 3,600 species of insects, more than 1,500 plants, and 75 species of mammals, the Big Bend region of Texas and the Rio Bravo region of the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila provide a unique opportunity for scientists, natural resource managers and park staff to collaborate in areas that will benefit the people, the landscapes and the wildlife on both sides of the border, the Department of the Interior said.

Following the announcement, the secretaries and Ambassador Wayne participated in a wildlife release on the U.S. side of the border. Joined by members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Salazar, Elvira and Wayne helped with the transport and release of 267,000 Rio Grande silvery minnows as part of an ongoing recovery project (PDF, 300KB) for the endangered species.

Earlier in October, Mexico released 15 birds in Chihuahua: two red-tailed hawks, two roadside hawks, two American kestrels, one gray hawk, two great horned owls, three burrowing owls and three Cooper’s hawks, the department said.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)