In the 1990’s the National Park System began the Sister Parks Program, which allowed American national park units to formally establish a collaborative relationship with protected areas in different countries. Through this NPS program, Saguaro National Park worked with Parque Nacional de la Constitución de 1857 and Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Mártir, both in Baja California, while Coronado National Memorial, Chiricahua National Monument, and Fort Bowie National Historic Site established a relationship with APFF Bavispe in Sonora.
However, with time it became increasingly difficult for government staff of either country to travel across the international border. In addition, all reserves experienced budget cuts that limited the resources and staff time needed to maintain that international collaboration. Nevertheless, the desire to work across the international border was still prevalent among all reserves in the region, but they needed help maintaining and expanding this collaborative work.
Sky Island Alliance was perfectly positioned to help! We had a long history of working with Mexico’s National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, or CONANP) and the U.S. National Park Service. We had also been working on training and mobilizing volunteers in conservation actions in both countries, and we were well versed in navigating the socio-political systems of the U.S. and Mexico. So in 2014 all of the Sister Parks decided to come together and work as a single collaborative group, with Sky Island Alliance leading and helping deepen and expand the relationship.
The work was initially made possible through funding from the Sonoran Joint Venture, and it has since been funded continuously by the NPS Southwest Border Resource Protection Program.