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New efforts could aid parks on U S. borders.

National parks and other wildlands along the Mexican and Canadian borders of the United States are likely to benefit from a new interest in international conservation efforts.

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt is examining ways to protect important border areas, such as the North Cascades of Washington State and British Columbia.

NPCA and other groups also want conservation efforts among the United States, Mexico, and Canada included in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if it is passed.

If NAFTA is ratified on all sides, one likely result would be increased industrial development along the borders. At the same time, the agreement could bring about better cooperation on conservation issues. A proposed panel made up of experts from the three countries would foster joint preservation projects.

After a meeting with NPCA and other groups this spring, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) requested a list of important natural areas that could benefit from such efforts.

The North Cascades, a 10-million-acre expanse of mountains, waterfalls, and lush forests, is one area cited by the groups. Currently, North Cascades National Park and two other U.S. park units preserve part of the region. But massive clearcutting, especially on the Canadian side, and air pollution are serious problems. Prospects for the area's wildlife are also uncertain.

"To bring back salmon populations that have plummeted and to ensure a future for grizzly bears and wolves and lynx here, we need to start looking at the North Cascades as one whole and managing it that way," said Dale Crane, NPCA Pacific Northwest regional director. Crane and other U.S. and Canadian conservationists have formed the Cascades International Alliance to push for the establishment of an international park in the region.

Another international park idea has been talked about for at least 50 years, since the time Big Bend National Park in Texas was established. Just across the Rio Grande from Big Bend is Mexico's spectacular Sierra del Carmen mountain range. Peregrine falcons, black bear, and other wildlife move constantly between the two countries. "They don't recognize the boundary," said Howard Ness of the Park Service's newly established Mexico Affairs Office.

Along with the possibility of an international park, clean-up efforts are needed. Both sides of the Rio Grande suffer from serious air and water pollution, much of which comes from heavy industry in the region.

Despite such problems along the border, the Mexican government is moving forward with environmental action of its own. In early June, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari declared the creation of several new "biosphere" reserves in northern Mexico. There will be a special effort to preserve these areas and to make existing uses of them, such as farming and ranching, compatible with conservation.

One of the new reserves is in the Pinacate, a forbidding but magnificent volcanic region in the Sonoran desert. Just to its north is Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. Both areas rely on the same body of groundwater, and both will benefit from Mexico's new conservation efforts.

"The protection of resources is an investment for all on both sides," said Ness. "We both win."
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Title Annotation:cooperation between Mexico, Canada and U.S.
Publication:National Parks
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Words:518
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