Reopening of Boquillas step toward international park
By BENJAMIN WERMUND
BOQUILLAS – The informal border crossing at Boquillas, set to reopen next spring, will help bi-national preservation efforts along the Rio Grande in more ways than one, experts say.
Until the crossing in Big Bend National Park was closed in the wake of 9/11, American tourists who crossed the Rio Grande into Boquillas provided an important source of income for the Mexican village.
The U.S. announced in January it would reopen the crossing, potentially a first step toward creating a bi-national park that has been called for as far back as President Theodore Roosevelt, and as recently as last year when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Big Bend.
“Opening that will help because the towns on the Mexican side have been suffering for lack of income. They lived partly from the income from that international tourism,” said James Nations, head of the National Parks Conservation Association’s Center for the State of the Parks.
The center released a study last month that said America’s parks are suffering from dwindling funds and resources. Nations said Big Bend National Park has been on the rebound, however, because of cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico in preserving the 3.3 million acres along the Rio Grande that constitute Big Bend National Park and the Canon de Santa Elena, Ocampo and Madera del Carmen protected areas in Mexico.
Nations said reopening the border will only help the trend.
“I think [the village] will benefit, and economic benefit will show them conservation is a positive thing and that’s an incentive for protection,” Nations said.
Rick Lobello, an advocate for bi-national cooperation who worked in Big Bend National Park for years said closing the crossing “almost shut a door.”
“Talks that were ongoing between different individuals in the political realm and also grassroots groups ended,” Lobello said. “Now that that door is opening again it’s only going to encourage the park service to cooperate with mandates they’ve been given by the president.”
President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon released a joint statement in May urging cooperation in the region, which the statement said is “one of the largest and most significant ecological complexes in North America.”
Big Bend National Park Superintended William Wellman said the crossing will ease research and restoration projects that have to be conducted on both sides of the river.
“The closest port of entry is over in Presidio and it’s a long way around to get back on the Mexican said,” Wellman said. “One of the things we’ve lost is, it’s made it much harder…because you have to do everything sort of remotely, even though you’re trying to work with people just across the river from you.”
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