Budget woes threaten Mexico’s reputation as a conservation leader

11/29/2015 Washington Post

Endangered Mexican prairie dogs and a pair of ultra-rare Worthen’s sparrows greeted the pickup truck bouncing down a dirt track in this remote northern desert. But the two environmentalists aboard were after an even more elusive prize.

“Stop!” one shouted, his binoculars trained on a distant mountain. Enrique Cisneros of the Mexican Fund for Nature Conservation thought he had spotted a golden eagle, the national symbol that has all but vanished from the country. Just as suddenly, the bird was gone.

“It requires a lot of time to observe them,” said Alejandro Lozano, a professor of wildlife management who sat alongside him. “And many people, too.”

And that is a problem. In Mexico, conservationists say, environmental oversight is becoming as vulnerable as the wildlife, as program budgets have shrunk and scores of employees at the agency that monitors protected areas have been fired. This year, Mexican environmentalists have repeatedly voiced alarm about the federal government’s commitment to conservation.

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