An unprecedented ceremony held at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso commemorated the 80th anniversary of the first signed agreement between the United States and Mexico allowing for “the creation and operation of International Parks, Forests, and Wild Life Preserves along the United States-Mexican International Boundary.” Left to right Jason Abrams, Rick LoBello, Gus Sanchez, Zach Abrams.
EL PASO: December 6, 2015 — An unprecedented ceremony held at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso commemorated the 80th anniversary of the first signed agreement between the United States and Mexico allowing for “the creation and operation of International Parks, Forests, and Wild Life Preserves along the United States-Mexican International Boundary.” The Chamizal event was cosponsored by Forgotten Frontiers and the Greater Big Bend Coalition, in cooperation with the National Park Service.
On November 24, 1935, the United States and Mexico passed a joint resolution in El Paso creating an International Parks Commission to study “adjacent areas of outstanding scenic beauty on both sides of the International Boundary.” The largest area under consideration was a project including the Big Bend of Texas and adjoining lands in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila.
The Chamizal event marks the first-ever commemoration by the National Park Service of the 1935 El Paso conference. Superintendent F. Gus Sanchez made park service history by reading an unpublished correspondence from President Truman to President of Mexico Manuel Avila Camacho–discovered in the National Archives by Forgotten Frontiers. In April 1946, Truman called for the creation of the international park–on behalf of both himself and “the late President Roosevelt.”
The Lone Star Chapter supported the international park movement in the 1990s and now the El Paso Group of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club has initiated a new effort to help gain public support for a Big Bend International Park with Mexico. The Sierra Club believes that establishing this park will initiate an international celebration of the successful effort by the United States and Mexico to protect, preserve, and restore the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem.
If established today, the Big Bend International Park would preserve and restore 2.3 million acres of protected Chihuahuan desert.
The Chamizal National Memorial celebration also acknowledged the contributions of Albert W. Dorgan (1887-1985), a Rotarian and the first person to submit an international park development plan for Big Bend to the federal government. Framed copies of two unknown international park maps–drafted by Dorgan in 1935 for President Roosevelt–were presented to Supt. Sanchez by Forgotten Frontiers cofounders Jason Abrams and Zach Abrams, who are reprinting these hand drawn color maps as part of a Kickstarter campaign titled “Forgotten Frontiers: Texas and the Battle for Big Bend National Park.”
Less than a third of the history of the Big Bend International Park is known to the public and Forgotten Frontiers cofounders Jason Abrams and Zach Abrams are planning a gorgeous, professionally designed, full color hardcover coffee table book revealing this unknown story not only in words, but through the eyes of those who witnessed the early years of the international park campaign firsthand.
For details and updates on the Kickstarter campaign by Forgotten Frontiers that is rewriting the founding history of Big Bend National Park, visit bit.ly/ForgottenFrontiers, or experience this unknown history today at www.forgottenfrontiers.com.
The dream of an international park in Big Bend endures, and Greater Big Bend Coalition is circulating a change.org petition to make the Big Bend-Rio Bravo International Park a reality. Details and a link to the petition are available at www.greaterbigbend.org.