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The conflicts and controversies over the presidency in Mexico over the past few months rivaled our own Bush v. Gore. Unlike his predecessor, Vicente Fox, who only had to sit still for six years to prove that Mexico could be governed without the Soviet-like PRI, Mexico’s newly installed President Felipe Calderon, needed to demonstrate that he can actually do something.
Having just completed his first 100 days in office, Calderon has carried out three measures recently that prove that at least in terms of coastal and marine conservation, he is wiling to abandon the pro-development and destruction legacy of Fox. A recent mangrove conservation law protected these fragile coastal ecosystems against the predations of developers who are cutting a wide swath along the wetlands and estuaries of Mexico’s coastline.
Last week, Calderon formally protected 1.1 million acres of the Sea of Cortez area around Bahia de los Angeles, one of the world’s richest marine and island areas. And last Thursday, his National Park Service Director, Ernesto Enkerlin announced on national television in Mexico, that President Calderon protected 110,000-acres of Laguna San Ignacio that had once been under concession to the Mexican Salt Exporting Company that is 49 percent owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation.
These are major steps for Mexico and Calderon after the six years in which former President Fox encouraged the world’s biggest corporations to literally buy and destroy Mexico’s amazing biodiversity hotspots. Having worked to protect both Bahia de los Angeles and Laguna San Ignacio, I cannot even begin to explain how elated I was to hear such amazing news.
Calderon’s measure only reinforces a program managed by the Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance (WiLDCOAST, NRDC, ICF, Pronatura Noroeste, Pronatura, FUNDEA, Laguna Baja Aric and Fundacion Azteca) in which local landowners have signed more than 140,000-acres of conservation easements around the lagoon’s shoreline, in return for establishing an investment trust fund and payments that provide green capital for their whale watching and private enterprises.
This is fitting news to share since today I am in Laguna San Ignacio in the company of El Santo surrounded by 45-foot friendly gray whales, to celebrate the fact that conservation becomes a reality when it involves environmental protection, sustainable development and helping the poor help themselves.