Mexico’s conservationists keep fighting the good fight

  • Ray Ring

 

Note: This editor's musing accompanies a main story profiling Sonoran rancher Carlos Robles Elías and a sidebar describing many conservation efforts in Northwest Mexico.

"150 Miles of Hell": That's the scorching headline over a typical story about the U.S.-Mexico border, in the April issue of Men's Journal, a New York City-based monthly with a circulation of more than 700,000. Arizona ranchers and U.S. Border Patrol agents are overwhelmed by the influx of undocumented immigrants and Mexican drug-cartel violence, the story says. A subhead shrieks that ranches have become "killing fields" in "the most lawless place in America."

Other U.S. news operations have covered the border's troubles with similar language and bloody details. High Country News ran a staccato 2010 cover story by Charles Bowden headlined "The War Next Door." Bowden wrote: "This weekend, over 40 people were murdered in Juarez. ... A double amputee was shot in the head. ... Another man was found with his severed head on his chest."

This blast of bad publicity has lasted several years now and defines our southern neighbor in the minds of many people. And yet there's a lot more going on in Mexico, including some good-news stories about the dedicated conservationists working there.

In this issue's cover story, veteran reporter Tony Davis, based in Tucson, Ariz., profiles a rancher, Carlos Robles Elías, in Sonora, a Mexican border state. Robles is working hard to provide habitat for jaguars, ocelots, hundreds of species of birds and other wildlife. A detailed foldout map -- created with the help of Talli Nauman, a U.S. journalist who has covered Mexico's environment for more than 15 years -- notes other efforts to protect the country's biodiversity and restore watersheds degraded by unsustainable grazing, logging and desert farming.

Our focus is Northwest Mexico, because that region is an ecological partner with the U.S. West.  Habitat and migration corridors for a huge variety of creatures straddle the border. Northwest Mexico is a tremendous reserve of biodiversity, with two major deserts (Sonoran and Chihuahuan), many mountain ranges, and the marine habitat of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean.

Our stories describe some of the ways in which Mexico's conservation movement resembles the movement in the U.S. Both began in the early 1900s and have surged since the 1970s in response to environmental crises. We also point out key differences; Mexico, for instance, has less public land, so it relies even more on the efforts of ranchers to protect habitat. So Mexico could serve as a model for conservationists working with the private sector -- except that its system remains hampered by a lack of funds and other problems, including the cartel violence.

But there's some encouraging news as we go to press: Both houses of Mexico's Congress just passed versions of a law that limits climate change-causing emissions, and sets a goal of generating 35 percent of Mexico's electricity with renewable energy by 2024 -- actions that the U.S. Congress has refused to take. Conservationists working in Mexico should be proud: Despite incredible challenges, they are making headway in a nonviolent war to save the planet.

High Country News Classifieds
  • GRANT WRITER (PART-TIME, FREELANCE CONTRACT)
    High Country News seeks an energetic, eloquent and highly organized grant writer to support a growing foundations program. This position works closely with our Executive...
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM MANAGER
    Associate Program Manager ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our State Parks thrive. From redwood groves and desert springs...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • FREE RANGE BISON AVAILABLE
    Hard grass raised bison available in east Montana. You harvest or possible deliver quartered carcass to your butcher or cut/wrapped pickup. Contact Crazy Woman Bison...
  • CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST (NORTH CENTRAL WA)
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, and the chance to work with many different kinds of people and accomplish big conservation outcomes? Do you...
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...