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Press Relases Oct. 1, 2005

El Carmen—The First Wilderness Designation In Latin America

Anchorage, Alaska—CEMEX, Agrupación Sierra Madre, Conservational International, The Wild Foundation, Birdlife International and Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas announced today the first Wilderness Designation in Latin America. The New El Carmen Wilderness Area is located in Northeastern Mexico, adjacent to the Big Bend National Park in Texas. The Sierra del Carmen is a 40 mile long sky island which lies high above its Great Chihuahuan Desert floor and is the heart of a bi–national mega–corridor that is considered an international conservation priority.

Mexico is the fourth richest country in diversity of species and the second richest in ecosystems worldwide. Thanks to this biological wealth, some of the most interesting and diverse cultures on the planet have been able to flourish. After thousands of years of constant use of natural resources, very few places have remained unmarked by the human footprint: only the deep canyons of the sierras like Sierra de Carmen have been left in pristine condition.

In the last 10 years, the Mexican government has taken a significant step forward towards the conservation of this extraordinary diversity: the creation of the CONANP, which accepted the challenge of increasing the coverage of the protected area system in Mexico to international levels and, much more importantly, of ensuring that the system effectively conserves a representative sample of the different ecosystems present in Mexico. However, due to the fact that public owned land is not common in Mexico, the designation of Mexican wilderness areas needs to be a voluntary process where responsible private landowners like CEMEX commit their land to the wilderness concept and compatible conservation and management practices.

Mexico is embracing the designation of wilderness in two ways. First, the existing legal private and social “conservation land certification system” is being used by CONANP to recognize land conservation efforts by legally protecting these lands and offering economic incentives to landowners such as payment for the ecosystem services from watershed-based forest conservation, biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration and scenic landscape protection. Recently, conservation groups and the private sector approached CONANP to suggest a new level of certification, one that will seek to promote the highest possible level of ecological integrity of the land and avoid negative or excessive human impacts. Wilderness Zones would embrace wilderness within this certification framework and would facilitate the re-wilding process of more land in the future. It also would be an incentive to expand strict conservation into additional areas.

Second, and from the private sector, a coalition of national and international conservation organizations and academic institutions will create a “private wilderness certification system,” thereby, providing solid, verifiable, moral and prestige-based backing either to landowners who have already certified their lands through CONANP or to those who prefer to certify their land as wilderness through the private sector process.

The northern end of the Sierra del Carmen, located at the international border between Mexico and the United States, is a spectacular, pristine environment with deep canyons and great walls that connect it to the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River and the Big Bend National Park. This area is home to more than 500 plant species, 400 bird species (including eagles), 70 mammal species, and 50 types of reptiles and amphibians.

CEMEX, which owns and manages this land, is committed to working with its partners and all stakeholders to transform it into the first private wilderness area for Mexico and Latin America. The El Carmen Wilderness Area is an excellent example of how a private company, NGOs and government can bring about important accomplishments by working together to re-wild and protect this extraordinary biodiverse ecosystem.

About the Organizations

CEMEX is a growing global building solutions company that provides products of consistently high quality and reliable service to customers and communities in more than 50 countries throughout the world. The company improves the well-being of those it serves through its relentless focus on continuous improvement and efforts to promote a sustainable future. For more information, visit

Agrupación Sierra Madre is a Mexican conservation organization, founded in 1989, that works to promote conservation initiatives that protect biodiversity and wilderness on the planet. Sierra Madre has published more than 20 titles in conjunction with conservation organizations worldwide such as Conservation International, IUCN, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and Wildlife Conservation Society. For more information, visit

Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth’s richest regions of plant and animal diversity and demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature. Founded in 1987, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents to help people find economic alternatives without harming their natural environments. For more information about CI, visit

The WILD Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), non-governmental organization founded in the United States in 1974 by South African Ian Player, and based in Ojai, California. For 29 years, WILD has worked around the world to protect highly threatened wilderness areas and wildlife. Our field project focus is in Sub-Saharan Africa. WILD promotes wild lands conservation and species protection throughout the region. We facilitate and implement a range of creative and pragmatic projects that integrate conservation objectives with the needs of local peoples. For more information, visit

BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. BirdLife Partners operate in over one hundred countries and territories worldwide. Learn more at

National Commission for Protected Areas (CONANP), an independent agency of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico (SEMARNAT), is responsible for the conservation of Mexico’s natural heritage. In particular, CONANP operates all 155 federally-designated protected areas encompassing 47 million acres and implements priority species conservation programs. In the last five years, CONANP has established 28 additional protected areas and its budget has grown by 400 percent. For more information, visit the web site at

Julian Teixeria


Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB) provides a new forum for collaboration between the private sector and the environmental community. Created in partnership with Conservation International (CI) and the Ford Motor Company, CELB operates as a division of CI and is governed by a distinct executive board of leaders from the business and environmental communities-engaging the private sector worldwide in creating solutions to critical global environmental problems in which industry plays a defining role. For further information about CELB, please visit


Katrin Olson
[email protected]

 Photo credits for banner image: (Zebras in Botswana) © CI, Chris Brooks