Over the past week we’ve been busy at Sky Island Alliance preparing to host a workshop in Sonora, Mexico where we will train a cohort of Mexican university students and agency personnel in springs ecosystem surveys. Despite their incredible importance to landowners and wildlife, the springs of Mexico’s Sky Islands are poorly mapped and understood, and the first step to helping them thrive is to learn where they are and how wet they are.
Water is essential to supporting the diversity of life in the deserts, grasslands, and mountains of the Sky Islands, be it wildlife, plants, or humans. Our Sky Island waters are gravely threatened by the warming climate—with 2016 wrapping up as the hottest year on record.
And now, our Sky Islands on both sides of the US–Mexico border face assault from a barrage of Executive Orders and appointees from the new Trump administration. These orders and appointees endanger the public lands, clean air, and clean water that support our way of life in the Sky Islands and threaten the very fabric of our binational conservation work.
For me the actions of the Administration reinforce the urgency of Sky Island Alliance’s work to advance conservation and tackle climate change at a local level with local communities, to stand strong for good science, and to be a diverse and inclusive workplace and Alliance.
In the coming weeks and months, Sky Island Alliance will defend these conservation and community principles, which have guided our work since the beginning:
Connectivity of natural and human communities across borders
For decades Sky Island Alliance has worked to reconnect wildlife and human communities across jurisdictional and international boundaries. The wildlife, waters, and ecosystems of the Sky Island Region know no political boundaries and our work is made possible and enriched by working with communities and residents in Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Chihuahua. This work remains paramount in light of the Trump administration’s January 25 Executive Order to move forward with further construction of a border wall in our borderlands. Further construction of a wall along our southern border will damage human and natural communities and halt the movement of wildlife and water, not to mention that walls have proven to be an expensive, ineffective approach to stop crossborder smuggling or deter undocumented immigrants along the border. We are committed to building connectivity for wildlife and working with our neighbors and partners in Mexico to keep the Sky Island Region whole and functioning.
Protecting the integrity and availability of science
Science is our bread and butter at Sky Island Alliance—it’s right there in our mission. The biologists, ecologists, and botanists on staff and among our volunteers develop new information to improve protections for unique wildlife and ecosystems and to protect pathways for them to move freely. We make science actionable, taking it to the ground in the form of new management approaches, new protections for unique waters and ecosystems and carefully placed ecosystem restoration projects. Actions taken by the Trump administration to prevent science and information developed by the EPA, and other important federal agencies, from reaching the public and decision makers is deplorable. We will continue to share science with our partners and the many land and resource managers working to ensure our Sky Islands are teeming with clean water and a diversity of life.
Responding to climate change
For those of us living in the low elevations of the Sky Islands, we’ve been feeling climate change all around us for years. Sky Island Alliance has been a local leader in protecting habitat and providing wildlife and ecosystems space and time to respond by expanding and adapting our restoration work and conducting essential science-based planning with land and resource managers. The Trump administration has made it clear their intent is to deny science and ignore climate change by removing all references to climate change from the whitehouse.gov website and replacing it with a policy agenda that would turn the U.S. back toward dirty coal and open up public lands to destructive energy development. As waters dry up and temperatures increase, the people, waters, and wildlife of the Sky Island Region cannot afford to ignore reality and return to dirty energy policies that destroy our public lands. We will continue to proactively address climate challenges and be a source of essential climate change information for all of our partners. We will increase our efforts to advocate for sound management of public lands that supports a diversity of life and the quality of life in surrounding communities.
The wildlife and waters of the Sky Islands need our strong voice to champion sound policies, good science, and solid cross-boundary working relationships. These are the pillars of our successful conservation work to keep this region beautiful and thriving, and diversity and inclusion are essential to Sky Island Alliance’s culture and to achieving our mission. Our differences—in thought, style, culture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and experience—make us stronger.
We will stand strong in the face of divisive politics and remain committed to strengthening our binational community, building a diverse and inclusive work environment, and protecting our Sky Islands for all its residents—human, plant, and animal.
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