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The instrument of environmental policy with greater legal definition for the conservation of biodiversity  is protected areas. These are portions of land or water in the country representing various ecosystems, where the original environment has not been essentially altered and which produce environmental benefits increasingly recognized and valued . They are created by presidential decree and the activities that can be performed on them are set in accordance with the General Act of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection, its regulations, the management program and the  programs of  land-use  planning in an ecological way. They are subject to special protection, conservation, restoration and development, according to categories defined in the Act.

The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas currently manages 173 natural areas under federal condition, representing more than 25, 250.963 hectares. These areas are classified into the following categories as shown in the table below.

Number of PA Category Area (hectares) Percentage of national territory


  Biosphere Reserves




 National Parks




Natural Monuments




 Protection Area of Natural Resources




 Protection Area of Flora and Fauna










Mission and Vision Statements::


In six years the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) will have headed the coordination and consolidation of a national system of protected areas and also various forms of conservation of terrestrial, aquatic, marine, coastal and island ecosystems and its biodiversity.

The system will involve the three levels of government, civil society and rural and indigenous communities, which will be representative,  systemic, functional, participatory, supportive, subsidiary  and effective.


Conserve the natural heritage of Mexico through Protected Areas and other forms of preservation, by promoting a culture of conservation and the sustainable development of communities living in their own environment.


The nature conservation in Mexico has gone through several stages, product of its own socioeconomic and cultural dynamics, as well as the influence of international trends and ideas.

Conservation strategies equivalent to the Protected Natural Areas today, were formally launched in Mexico in 1876 with the protection of the Desert of the Lions, whose original purpose was to ensure the maintenance of 14 springs that supply water to Mexico City.

It is up to the publication of the 1917 Constitution that the concept of property as a social function was integrated, and regulations and limitations for the use of natural resources capable of appropriation were established. On this basis the Desert of the Lions was decreed as the first national park. However, during the five decades that followed, Mexico didn´t establish clear and effective public policies for conservation of ecosystems and its biodiversity.

However, there were significant conservation efforts under the leadership of Miguel Angel de Quevedo, which resulted in the protection of watersheds of major cities, and the establishment of National Parks and Forest Reserves in spaces with scenic and environmental value.

During this period  expropriation decrees and declaratory  of the National Parks were perceived as central imposition, for both owners and local communities. In many cases, domain constraints were not instrumented, so it is regarded as "paper parks".Since the 70´s began a new phase of conservation  , focused on biodiversity conservation, environmental or ecological services as a supplementary issue, and the explicit incorporation of human communities in the model through the biosphere reserves. It is clear that the future of PA required a commitment to achieve decent standards of welfare for the residents, which also depends on their ability to continue offering conservationist services, ecotourism, etc. Unfortunately, this happened at the same time that the destruction of ecosystems and significant areas of forest throughout the country and especially the cattle raising, largely subsidized as a  public policy.

Over the following two decades, the creation of PA was reactivated based on the great efforts of society and the leadership of major academic groups from the main institutions of the country, in alliance with civil society organizations,. The protection of PA is also a instrument, at the worldwide and national level, that turns them into icons of commitment to conservation by the official sector, which facilitates its decree, but not a real commitment to their effective conservation management. The first institutionalization of environmental management in general and ecological conservation in particular  is given in the early 90´s.

The Earth Summit in 1992 represented at the international level the opportunity for an environmental politics change in Mexico. At this point our country, in the framework of Agenda 21, assumed important commitments that will enforce the decrees of Natural Protected Areas which were represented in the paper for 75 years. In the same period, civil society had grown in their knowledge, awareness and sophistication of national conservation organizations and those with international presence in Mexico, sometimes allied with environmental groups and environmentalists, which began to bear fruit. A considerable number of new conservation leaders  from various fields joined  the pioneer teachers of two generations.

Within this framework and thanks to the collaboration of many years of the academic institutions and the political class, two important institutions were founded, whose influence will continue for much longer,. In 1992 it creates the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO)and shortly after the Mexican Fund for Conservation of Nature (FMCN).

Together they continue planning and strengthening national and international image of the country in the field, and influence public policy.

CONABIO from the public sector, for its ability to search, retrieve, organize and use information on biodiversity for decision making by society and government; FMCN , from private and philanthropic sectors, to obtain, strategically manage and distribute financial and technical resources for conservation programs and projects of society and government, and strengthen conservation organizations . As a direct result of these junctures of the 90's, the PA quickly gained the lost ground for decades. In the institutional level, they move from one address field, with limited budget and a centralized role, distant and basically normative, to become a coordinating unit within the National Institute of Ecology (INE)  in 1996, and this one in turn in the structure of a Secretariat, with direct operational capacity, however minimal, over 80% of the area under protection. Finally, in 2000, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) is created as a decentralized agency of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), with the challenges of consolidation and institutionalization that rapid growth imposed on it. Step by step there has been progress in the attention of cumulative lag, both in conservation actions, such as increasing the budget, however CONANP has still needs of growth.


The new vision of conservation agrees that without the human it does not make sense. That is why although often focuses the attention on problems related to ecosystems and its biodiversity, there is a concern to maintain decent living conditions and opportunities for all people of this and future generations. Moreover, involves explicitly the participation of communities and maintain opportunities becomes an opportunity by itself.

Conservation is the one that gives the  character of sustainable to development, therefore without conservation sustainability is impossible. To be able to understand and implement fully and effectively the concept of conservation, we must disaggregate and order it in different components. Preservation is achieved both with direct actions on ecosystems and its biodiversity as with indirect actions that influence behaviors and decisions of individuals. Therefore, concept is divided into direct and indirect action.

At the same time and to support in three complementary concepts that give a comprehensive nature to our work, direct conservation consists of protection, management and restoration, concepts that are not the same order that conservation, as often is postulated, but which constitute the three basic pillars  or axes of it. Those who have experience in the subject will have the challenge of prove the consistency of addressing the issue based on this proposal.

To preserve and prevent through protection

Protection is the traditional way to conserve and seeks to prevent alteration of natural conditions that affect the proper functioning of an ecosystem and its biodiversity. It is important to mention that it doesn´t pretend to avoid change, only seeks that the changes take place in a natural way including some disturbance regimes which are intrinsic. Our aim is to maintain the system within their "limits of acceptable change" simply avoiding intervention or doing it only in very specific  cases and in a  subtle way.

To use and maintain through management

The management involves greater intervention that simply allow the change to occur; it leads change to the ecosystem with different degrees of human intervention. By definition the areas and species managed produce something to society, that is the purpose of management, and therefore it is considered that handling and use are inextricably linked.

That is, the use and exploitation are part of management and this one is part of the conservation, as well. As there are still atavisms, to "conserve" does not include "use"; sometimes to make the relationship clearer and to avoid the fears of the "extreme conservatism", we talk about "use and management" or "maximization" and  even sometimes we repeat using the word "sustainable."

To recover and return through restoring

Finally, our most intensive direct action, which requires the greatest time to be achieved (which unfortunately is becoming more necessary) is restoration, which allows us to recover completely or partially the missing values on ecosystems and its biodiversity. “Partially” refers to a severely affectation because it is not only question of time, but that "partially" can mean the loss of species or complete phenomena. Restoration is expensive, but it must be conducted because at long-term remains a good investment and, conversely, not making restoration would increase the costs and could lead beyond the point of no return.

At the same time, each of these areas of direct conservation have different interactions, as shown in the figure below:

Similarly, there are three areas of indirect action, though for some are less glamorous as conservation actions, may sometimes be more important:

The Pillars of the indirect conservation are: knowledge, culture and management.

To understand and decide through knowledge

In CONANP, conservation is governed by the concept of applying the best available knowledge in decision-making. The generation, transfer and application of knowledge in the field of conservation is a prerequisite required to sustain policies and actions and make them sustainable. To achieve effective policies for conservation, it is particularly important to integrate biological and ecological knowledge that traditionally has represented the environmental area with the economic and social knowledge.

This knowledge is based on the demands that society has to solve their most pressing problems. The role of institutions operating in protected areas such as CONANP, is not to conduct research but to encourage its performance and, in some cases, fund it when the results are necessary for decision making.

To value and participate through culture

To achieve sustainability must be involved the whole society. The conservationist culture we are promoting seeks to achieve a suitable valuation in all senses of ecosystems and its biodiversity, and is based on education (formal, non-formal and informal), training, participation and use of strategic communication. If people don’t change its behavior we cannot speak of culture. Of course, these changes, which are already going, can be graduals and ideally we must accelerate them by the magnitude of the environmental crisis.

To regulate and promote through management

It is in the process of management where planning, determining policies and setting standards are made; where the human, physical, technological or financial resources are administered; where activities and ways of doing things are promoted; where society and its institutions carry out conservation through authorizations and permits (whether these are centralized or decentralized).

The concept of management must be bounded in the indirect way and do not mixed with knowledge or culture, because sometimes the concept "management"  is used to explain practically everything. One example is the Anglo-Saxon concept of "management effectiveness" which really should focus on evaluating the effectiveness in terms of results of direct and indirect actions of conservation.

In short, conservation is simply the way to address the sustainability of the human species from the point of view of ecosystems and its biodiversity, and to engage as individuals and society in achieving it. It is also to fight and defend life, having a sense of responsibility and, thereby, give thanks to life, which is ultimately what ought to be the difference between rational beings and those who are not.

Última modificación :
22 de Septiembre del 2014 09:56:26 AM por la Dirección de Comunicación y Cultura para la Conservación