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Mexican President Calderon Sides with Cabo Pulmo

By Dawn Pier

I must preface this blog entry with the caveat that I am not unbiased in reporting the recent cancellation of the Cabo Cortez Project. In 2003, I was one of several people who founded the organization Amigos para la Conservacion de Cabo Pulmo, A.C. (ACCP), the mandate of which includes the conservation of the coral reef ecosystem in Cabo Pulmo National Park. I was executive director of the organization until 2005. In 2009, spurred by the threat represented by Cabo Cortez, I rejoined the current membership as a volunteer.

On June 15th, at the height of the G-20 conference in Los Cabos, Felipe Calderon, the President of Mexico, announced the cancellation of all permits for the mega-development Cabo Cortez. This was a massive project, 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 an instant message telling me that it was cancelled. This is a huge success in the history of conservation in Mexico. 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 were 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 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 the tunnel.

Although many local conservation organizations fought to get the project cancelled, it is without a doubt the tireless and diligent efforts of Greenpeace Mexico and WildCoast that brought the message of “Cabo Pulmo Vivo” and “No a Cabo Cortes!” to the hordes in Mexico City and beyond, resulting in the collection of 220,000 signatures in support of the cause. The tiny community organization of ACCP also deserves a great deal of credit for working so hard from their isolated location in a teensy off-the-grid desert village to protect a World Heritage Site for the rest of us.

The Cabo Pulmo community wrote an open statement of thanks to all who contributed to this effort, saying:

The community of Cabo Pulmo, visitors and friends wish to thank the more than 220,000 people who support conservation of the Cabo Pulmo reef because thanks to you the cancellation of the Cabo Cortes project was achieved.

Special thanks to the children, teachers, scientists, journalists, government officials, civic organizations and citizens who support conservation of the Cabo Pulmo reef.

Now we face the great challenge of creating economic alternatives without compromising the welfare of local communities and conservation of our natural heritage, so we still need your support.

From Cabo Pulmo we are making progress toward the creation of a vision of development that benefits all the communities around us. We want a Sanctuary for the Sea, Land and People, a truly ecological tourist destination, rustic and authentic. We believe that development need not be at odds with conservation, but we need to find a balance. One can make an honest living from natural resources without damaging them, which ensures that future generations will enjoy and benefit from them too.

Without your help this would not have been possible, so with all our heart …

THANK YOU!

While celebration is in order for this historically unprecedented move by the Mexican government to protect its natural heritage, we must remain vigilant. Among conservationists discussion now focuses on the steps that must be taken to protect Cabo Pulmo from unsustainable development over the long term to avoid, each time a new threat appears, the costly necessity of engaging in another fight like the one fought against Cabo Cortez.

President Calderon’s announcement to the Press (Spanish language only) regarding Cabo Pulmo is below:

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About Dawn Pier

In 2002, I packed the remains of a life I no longer wanted into the bed of my silver Nissan pickup and drove west across Canada, South down the Pacific Coast Highway and on into Mexico

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