Photo of Big Bend

Big Bend International Park is one of the best-kept secrets in North America. Since 1932, the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Mexican President Manual Avila Camacho, members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Rotary International and the National Parks Conservation Association have been unable to seal the deal in creating the largest symbol of international peace ever planned in the Western Hemisphere.

Lands on both sides of the border have been protected in the U.S. and Mexico, but today there is no Big Bend International Park. Is an international park needed? Definitely yes; the park is only half there. It was never completed as originally planned. The giant park would help both countries better address key issues such as protection of the largest tract of Chihuahuan Desert wilderness in North America, water and air quality, control of invasive species, and management of wildland fire. The park would become a permanent monument and symbol of peace between the U.S. and Mexico, one that would celebrate the friendship between the two countries and be a meeting ground where people of both countries and citizens from all parts of the world could come together to learn about one another’s culture while better understanding the natural world that they all share.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best in a letter to Mexican Camacho on Oct. 24, 1944: “I do not believe that this undertaking in the Big Bend (the establishment of a national park) will be complete until the entire park area in this region on both sides of the Rio Grande forms one great international park.” On July 29, 2009, Congressman Ciro Rodriguez of Texas introduced House Resolution 695 — “supporting an international park between Big Bend National Park in the United States and the protected areas of the Coahuila and Chihuahua States across the border in Mexico.” In 2013 at a meeting with El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, Sen. John Cronyn’s staff offered a glimmer of hope of getting the senator’s support. That same year I met with Congressman Beto O’Rourke and his staff, and he is willing to help in any way he can. What this effort needs is a national organization with political strength like the Sierra Club to make it a priority.

A new website recently launched by Forgotten Frontiers LLC (forgottenfrontiers.com), an independent group of researchers and media specialists, uncovers 30 years of lost history and the true story behind efforts to create what the New York Times in 1936 called the last great wilderness of Texas. The website’s information, combined with the timeline on the Friends of the Proposed Big Bend-Rio Bravo International Park reveals over 83 years of U.S./Mexico conservation history.

I have always believed that if the international park was in place today, so many of the problems we have on the U.S.-Mexico border with the border wall, illegal immigration, wildlife conservation, and socioeconomic problems would not be as intense. Now is the time for one great international park to finally be established.

El Paso, naturally El Paso Group Executive Committee member Jim Tolbert writes a great local blog at elpasonaturally.com. Here are excerpts from a few recemt posts:

I missed something the other day. I was so happy to see that the connectivity project for the Franklin Mountains State Park (the access and animal corridor to Tom Mays) was still a “GO” that I overlooked the rest of the report. The rest can be summarized easily: miles and miles and miles of concrete and asphalt. Project after project widens freeways and highways and spurs. Project after project eats up more land. There is no mention by the Texas Department of Transportation of mixed-used roads. There is no mention of narrowing roads and reducing speed limits to make livable, walkable places, promote communities and neighborhoods and health.

Please read a Better Cities & Towns blog post by Robert Steuteville: They paved paradise, put up a parking lot . . . “Big Asphalt” has compromised our health, safety, and welfare — but we can defeat it if we try. He’s right. The Asphalt-Industrial Machine Torchlight set to drill test well. In spite of plummeting oil prices, fracking may be coming soon next to El Paso in Hudspeth County. Torchlight Energy Resources is set to drill a test well on March 28. They must commence drilling as a term of their lease with the University of Texas that owns the land. In time it could mean drilling 2,500 fracking wells, marring the sensitvie Diablo Plateau. For more, see elpasonaturally.com

Rick LoBello, El Paso Group

Sealing the deal on Big Bend