How does the new Canada-U.S.-Mexico intergovernmental panel on wilderness protection go beyond previous conservation efforts?



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    In November 2009, representatives of the US, Canada and Mexico signed a “memorandum of understanding,” essentially an international agreement which seeks to facilitate protection of wilderness areas in all three countries. The accord was the result of the WILD9 International Wilderness Congress. What the MOU does that has not been done before is that it takes a unified international approach to wilderness conservation by trying to erase borders between various jurisdictions. What this means on the ground is that it will be easier for officials in the three countries to share information, coordinate enforcement and engage in conservation efforts without regard to boundaries between the countries, sort of a NAFTA for wilderness protection. This is a good idea because wildlife, of course, does not respect international boundaries and a lot of attention has been paid in recent years to the effects on ecosystems of animals on protected reserve lands not being able to move out of the reserves to other areas where they may need to graze or otherwise access. (Actor Harrison Ford has given particular effort to publicizing this issue). The MOU is quite new and the program being developed under it are just now getting started, so it’s too early to tell whether the scheme will work, but politically speaking it’s definitely a step forward in international cooperation to conserve wilderness and wildlife.

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