Mexico loses one of its national parks

Posted by Tim Johnson on October 21, 2013 

Looking into the crater of Mexico's Nevado de Toluca volcano.

TIM JOHNSON

Earlier this month, Mexicans awoke to the news that the towering and historic Nevado de Toluca National Park no longer exists.

Now, it is a “protected area,” rather than a national park. Apparently, degradation within the park’s boundaries was such that bureaucrats decided to make what was illegal legal and try to enforce regulations on clear cutting and mining.

Nevado de Toluca was declared a national park in 1936 and encompasses a volcano that is the fourth highest peak in Mexico at 15,387 feet. While deforestation has been intense, there are large extensions of firs, pines and alpine meadows. Getting to it heights only takes about a two-hour drive from Mexico City.

It is well worth trying to save. I took the photo above looking down into the crater on a snowy day last year.

Surprisingly to me, yanking away the national park designation has drawn little outrage. Can you imagine declaring that Yosemite in California or Banff in Canada had been downgraded from national park status?

Gabriel Quadri, a former presidential candidate, describes the park as “deforested, burnt, full of irresponsible farming activities, contaminated by chemicals, saturated by notorious buildings, and eroded by their owners to the extent that it provokes huge gully slopes.”

Under the new designation, he added, “only the crater remains as a conservation area!”

Indeed, the sacred “do not develop” legal status of Nevado de Toluca will now only cover about 7.5 square miles, only two craters, less than one-twentieth of what existed on paper for the past seven decades or so.

“This represents a mockery of Mexico’s environmental commitment to the world, and a shameful act that no environmental authority or ecological group has condemned,” Jose Luis Luege wrote in this morning’s El Universal.

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