US Mexico International Park will help protect wildlife habitat
August 31, 2016

Zoos, like the El Paso Zoo are working to save wildlife and their habitats.   With thousands of species on the endangered species we have known for some time that the best way to protect wildlife is to protect their habitats. Close to El Paso a growing number of people are discovering the wonders of Texas’s largest protected habitat, Big Bend National Park. To the hundreds of thousands who discover its majestic river canyons and mountains and the wildlife that live there ever year, Big Bend is a wilderness paradise. But what most people do not know is how the park is only half complete. The original proposal made at an international meeting in El Paso on November 24, 1935 called for the creation of a US Mexico International Park.


To help further the development and establishment of this park the El Paso Zoo Conservation Committee is sending Education Curator Rick LoBello to a Hands Across the Border International Workshop on Trans Boundary Conservation at Glacier International Park in Montana.  The workshop will bring together Trans Boundary practitioners from around the world from all across Africa, the Middle East, Russia, India and South America. At the conference participants will exchange information, foster relationships, build capacity to catalyze, enable and sustain ongoing efforts.  

Glacier National Park is connected to Waterton-Lakes National Park in Canada where the two large protected areas form Waterton-Glacier International Park. Established in 1932 both parks are declared Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO and their union as a World Heritage Site. Rick has been working on efforts to establish a US Mexico International Park since 1988 when he was invited to go on an expedition into the Maderas del Carmen mountain range across from Big Bend National Park. During the conference he will be making a presentation on his efforts.  

Transboundary conservation areas, like international parks, are important to global conservation efforts.  Cooperative management plans that result from international cooperation help to protect migratory birds and other wildlife species that freely travel across international boundaries. For example, Glacier National Park is working on a project to restore a wild bison herd to the Chief Mountain area of the park. Waterton-Glacier International Park is a collaboration with the Blackfeet Tribe, Parks Canada, private landowners in US/Canada, and National Park System units throughout the country. Forming this partnership will help return this umbrella species to the park - one of two originally missing species from a largely intact ecosystem. Bison returning to Glacier National Park is a direct result of the kind of cooperation that can occur when an international park is established.

A US Mexico international park would help to call attention to the importance of protecting the entire Big Bend area and its fragile environment from development projects including new roads and pipelines.  Protecting this fragile desert mountain region and its wildlife and culture is important to not only the quality of life of people who live there, but also to ecotourism which is important to the region's economy.


Creating a giant international park would help both countries better address key issues such as water and air quality, control of invasive species, wildlife protection and management of wildland fire. The park would become a permanent monument and symbol of peace between the U.S. and Mexico, one that will celebrate the friendship between the two countries and be a meeting ground where the people of both countries and citizens from all parts of the world could come together to learn about each other's culture while coming to better understand the natural world that they all share.

Each of the eight protected areas proposed to be included as part of the International Park has distinctive climate, physiographic setting, mountain-desert interface and significant scenic values with abundant and diverse flora and fauna.

1.    Big Bend National Park, Texas   801,163 acres

2.    Maderas del Carmen Protected Area, Coahuila 520,000 acres

3.    Ocampo Natural Protected Area, Coahuila Area 826,000 acres

4.    Cañón de Santa Elena Protected Area, Chihuahua 511,508 acres

5.    Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas  311,000-acre

6.    Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, Texas 54,000 acres

7.    Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River (196 mile portion of Rio Grande)

8.    Monumento Río Bravo del Norte in México (300 mile portion of Rio Grande)

Total Size of Proposed Big Bend International Park:3,023,671 acres or 4,724 square miles of contiguous parks and protected areas.

For comparison, Waterton Glacier International Park is 1,130,788 acres, or 1,766 square miles.