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Mexico, U.S., Canada to protect wilderness across borders

Canada, Mexico, and the United States have become the first countries to agree formally to cooperate on wilderness conservation measures across a continent, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón announced.

Calderón made the announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation for Wilderness Conservation between the three countries during his speech at the opening ceremony of the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WILD9), in Merida, Mexico last night.

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Monarch butterflies in Mexico prepare to head north. This is one of many animal migrations across Mexico, the U.S., and Canada.

NGS photo by Bianca Lavies

“This Agreement will facilitate the sharing of successful experiences, monitoring, and training of human resources, as well as the financing of projects that will protect and recover wild areas,” President Calderón said.

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The MOU provisions address ecosystems, migratory wildlife, and natural resources that do not start and end with geographical boundaries, the organizers of the WILD9 conference reported in a statement. “This MOU also encourages cooperative efforts to conduct and share scientific research.”

Signed in the three national languages of English, Spanish and French, the agreement is cross-cultural, and respects native approaches to conserving wild nature, accommodation for indigenous customs, priorities for species survival, and national environmental policy, the statement added.

Seven agencies responsible for wilderness management signed the MOU: the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources through the National Commission on Protected Areas (CONANP) of the United Mexican States; the Parks Canada agency of the Government of Canada; the National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management of the U.S. Department of Interior, and the Forest Service and Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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The National Geographic map of bird migrations shows at a glance how wildlife cross political boundaries in their annual lifecycles.

Map by NG Maps

The MOU process was facilitated by the WILD9 executive committee and is the result of 18 months of work by the North American Governmental Advisory Committee chaired by Ernesto Enkerlin-Hoeflich, National Commissioner, CONANP, in Mexico.

“Mexican legislation currently allows for incorporating the concept of wilderness in our protected area operations and private lands certification,” Enkerlin-Hoeflich said. “We are close to having it formally incorporated into environmental law. This MOU builds on our tradition of trilateral cooperation. It will greatly benefit Mexico as it shares and learns from the Canadian and U.S. experiences such that wilderness conservation, while respecting each country’s institutions and regulations, works seamlessly in North America.

The National Geographic Society is a sponsor of WILD9.