Mexican President Calderon Sides with Cabo Pulmo

Cabo Pulmo Vivo protects Cabo Pulmo National ParkThe President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, just announced the cancellation of all permits for the mega-development Cabo Cortez. This was a massive development, on a scale the likes of Cancun which was planned to begin construction next to the northern boundary of Cabo Pulmo National Park. I got goose bumps when I received the instant message telling me that it was cancelled. And again when I read the notification from Greenpeace Mexico that arrived seconds later in my email inbox.

This is a huge success in the history of conservation in Mexico, perhaps worldwide. The forces promoting this development are big fish, sharks one might say, in the international world of development. They had the backing of many Mexican government officials, not the least of which included the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, responsible for issuing the permits that originally gave the project the go-ahead.

Earlier this year, in an historically unprecedented move, the Mexican Senate called Elvira Quesada onto the carpet to answer to charges that he issued the permits fraudulently. That is when many of us involved in the movement to save Cabo Pulmo from this threat, began to see a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. While many local conservation organizations, including the one I co-founded, Amigos para la Conservación de Cabo Pulmo, A.C.(ACCP), fought to get the project cancelled, it is without a doubt the tireless and diligent efforts of Greenpeace Mexico that brought the message of “Cabo Pulmo Vivo” and “No a Cabo Cortes!” to the hordes in Mexico City and beyond, collecting 220,000 signatures in support of the cause. Similarly, WildCoast, an international coastal conservation organization based in San Diego and Ensenada, worked in the trenches of grassroots activism and launched a media campaign that brought international attention to the plight of Cabo Pulmo.

Today is a banner day in the world of conservation and grassroots activism, but while celebration is in order for this historically unprecedented move by the Mexican government to protect its natural heritage, we must remain vigilant. In his speech, he makes it clear that it was the nature of the development and the inability of its proponents to demonstrate that it would not impact the park that led to its cancellation. He was clear that in the government’s opinion, development and the protection of natural resources are not incompatible. There is always the possibility that another developer will swoop in with another idea for the land. Hopefully the necessary support for a conservation easement or the creation of a land-based reserve will be garnered by those working so hard to keep Cabo Pulmo Alive.

The relatively tiny community organization of ACCP also deserves a great deal of credit for working so hard on a shoestring budget from their isolated location in a teensy off-the-grid desert village to protect a World Heritage Site for the rest of us. They plan to meet this evening to vote for a new executive board, but I suspect that meeting will metamorphose into a celebration of this David versus Goliath victory. I for one plan to be there to help them celebrate.

President Calderon’s announcement to the Press this morning (Spanish language only).

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6 thoughts on “Mexican President Calderon Sides with Cabo Pulmo

    • Sorry if it left you confused. Basically there was a HUGE development planned for right next to a marine park that was recently proven to be the most successful example of what protecting an area can achieve (there was a 463% increase in overall abundance of fish in the park over a 10 year period). The development would have created a city of over 200,000 people in an area that currently has fewer than 100 people living in it and would have created pollution that in all likelihood would have killed the coral reef that is the basis for life in the park. This is the park I came to Mexico to work for the preservation of in 2002 (it had zero infrastructure and was not managed at the time). The development that was being proposed is completely unsustainable and was a bad idea proposed by big business that don’t care about the environment or a sensitive coral reef that a small Mexican community relies on for it’s livelihood (sustainable ecotourism-based economy). For a while there it looked like it was going to happen…but WildCoast, Greenpeace and whole legion of smaller organizations rallied and got the attention of the Mexican citizenry and finally, the government. So yes, this is a HUGE success in the world of conservation. Hope that helps explain it better.

  1. What a great victory for the little guy. In this day and age it is usually the developers who win these battles. Congratulations to the people who worked so hard to stop this project. Jim Oswald, Canada

  2. Pingback: In Mexico Taking Care of Business Bites | Dawn Revealed

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