Binational Vital Signs

Since the 1930’s, the US and Mexico have on and off been trying to establish an international peace park on the border, much like Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the US – Canada border. Though these plans have been shelved for a while due to sociopolitical reasons (far preceding the current administration), cooperation between the national park systems on both sides remains strong. The National Park Service (NPS) Sister Parks Initiative seeks to promote information sharing (largely scientific and resource management info) between US parks and foreign ones that share some similar attributes. The US and Mexico have 13 Sister Park relationships, more than with any other country. Now, most of the time this program remains effectively a paper designation; that is, it’ll exist on an official, signed paper, but it has no manifested bearing on real life.

Sister Parks Program

Description of the Sister Park Initiative from the National Park Service

On the US-Mexico border, however, this is changing. Since 2008, the US and Mexican national parks in the region have been making a concerted effort to collaborate through the Sister Park program. Most recently, and this is what I’ve been working on the past few weeks, the parks (listed below) have been looking at how to establish a Vital Signs Monitoring program that can be a useful resource for either side’s monitoring efforts.

List of Sister Parks in Region:

US Parks

  1. Big Bend National Park
    • Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River
  2. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  3. White Sands National Monument

  Mexican Parks

  1. Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Maderas del Carmen
    • Río Escénico y Salvaje Río Bravo
    • Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Cañón de Santa Elena
  2. Reserva de la Biosfera la Michilía
    • Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Ocampo (recent addition)
  3. Área de Protección de la Flora y Fauna Cuatrociénegas

  Last week was the NPS – CONANP Binational Vital Signs meeting in Boquillas del Carmen, where we got to discuss management plans, cooperation, and progress on the establishment of a vital signs monitoring framework. Wednesday and Thursday each were around 8 hours of discussion, presentations, and friendly negotiation that I was able to participate in, both by contributing ideas and as a bilingual translator for both parties. NPS and CONANP officials are working hard, in largely untested waters, to figure out how they can support each other’s missions and collaborate for joint benefit. It’s pretty great to be a part of this, as I find the details and nuances of collaboration at this scale interesting (nothing is straightforward!). Lunch was a highlight of the meeting on both days, as a local family prepared amazing goat tacos and typical Mexican food. If you’re looking for reasons to visit Boquillas or Mexico in general, look no further:   I also got to deliver five boxes of elementary-level school supplies to the local Boquillas School on behalf of the US San Vicente School, and am coordinating with teachers from both schools to set up some form of communication exchange between their students.


With the Boquillas School teacher Oscar and some of the kids. Pardon the backlit photo.

As they say in Texas, busy as a one-eyed dog in a smokehouse…

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