Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Congressman Ciro Rodriguez highlighted more than $10.4 million in projects that are creating jobs at Big Bend National Park under President Obama’s economic recovery plan during a visit there on March 12th. Joining them at the park were Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland and Director Jon Jarvis.
During a tour of the park, Salazar and Rodriguez also strongly supported expanded international cooperation between Mexico and the United States in conserving and managing the unique natural areas on both sides of the border, including the potential establishment of a Big Bend/Rio Bravo International Park.
“The investments at Big Bend under the President’s economic recovery plan are paying off both in terms of getting Americans back to work and upgrading the facilities at one of our great national parks,” Salazar said. “Thanks to the work being done here, visitors will enjoy a better park and a more enjoyable experience.”
“I am honored to host Secretary Salazar during his visit to one of the greatest natural treasures in the 23rd Congressional District,” said Congressman Rodriguez. “I’m proud to represent this area and look forward to having a dialogue with the Secretary about how best to preserve and enhance the Park using Stimulus funding and other resources.”
Investments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed last year by President include:
$9.2 million to perform preservation treatment on 123 miles of roads in the park.
$619,000 to clean up and repair campgrounds damaged by floods in September 2008
$418,000 to rehabilitate historic law enforcement quarters to allow for year-round occupancy.
$199,000 to improve visitor safety by rehabilitating trails.
Salazar and his Mexican counterpart Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada also are considering a proposal first put forward by Franklin Roosevelt and then-Mexican president Manuel Ávila Camacho more than 70 years ago to establish an international park along the U.S.-Mexican border. In the decades since, the National Park Service and its Mexican counterpart, the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas, have worked closely to coordinate management of the area.
Added to the Santa Elena and Maderas del Carmen Protected Areas, the recent designation of the Ocampo Protected Area and the Monumento Natural del Rio Bravo form a Mexican complex that, together with. Big Bend National Park and the designation of the Rio Grande as a "Wild and Scenic River," comprise one of North America's largest and most important conservation areas.
“The United States and Mexico are neighbors sharing a beautiful treasure,” Salazar said. “Our two nations could and should engage in an even higher level of cooperation to conserve this remarkable area and its wildlife while providing more opportunities for visitors to enjoy it.”
“In particular, this would help us better address key issues to the area such protection water and air quality, control of invasive species, and management of wildland fire,” he said.
Salazar noted that each country would maintain management responsibility for their side of the border, similar to the relationship between the United States and Canada at the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.