Pinacate as UNESCO World Heritage Site sure to attract growing tourism.

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Sierra Blanca by Ariel Gonzalez

The honor recently granted to the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve and Grand Desert of Altar as a UNESCO natural World Heritage Site positions the region on a global plane, encouraging CONANP (National Council on Natural Protected Areas) to work even harder on conservation of the area.

This designation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and the International Union for Nature Conservation, places the Pinacate and Grand Desert of Altar as being the most biodiverse desert in the world, one that may only be compared to 100 other volcanic areas. This obliges CONANP and the Mexican government to work harder on conserving the area while making the site a point of pride for Mexicans, and Sonorans in particular.

Federico Godinez Leal Photo: Azucena Mazon

Federico Godinez Leal Photo: Azucena Mazon

These points were expressed by Federico Godinez Leal, CONANP Director of the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, during a press conference with local media who gathered to hear more about the global recognition granted recently at the UNESCO meeting in Cambodia. Godinez Leal had traveled to Cambodia personally in representation of CONANP and the Pinacate.

“It was a process of thorough investigation; we were compared to 120 natural areas across the globe and volcano shields. The only requirement UNESCO outlines is we demonstrate the Biosphere Reserve is of exceptional universal value.  It sounds simple, yet we had to show there is no other part of the world with the same exceptional characteristics of the Reserve,” he explained.

To further grasp the importance and commitment this recognition represents to the Reserve, Godinez detailed upon demonstrating the Pinacate indeed met criteria of possessing outstanding scenic beauty that encompasses an area of geo-formations and biodiversity, there are benefits that come in now being a World Heritage Site. This includes greater global projection of the area, as well as funds from Federal resources and global organizations that may be sought for conservation projects.

He stressed they will look to further promote cultural and educational activities, and toward attracting specialized tourism such as those who travel the globe while visiting World Heritage Sites. This is, of course, in addition to both regional and national tourism as in being an organization that protects the environment they must care for and protect the environment yet be promoters of the site. “Being a World Heritage Site does not mean it cannot be touched,” confirmed the CONANP Director.

“Being a World Heritage Site does not mean it cannot be touched or visited.,” he repeated, “Ever since we entered the indicative list in 2004 we began working on infrastructure, signage, environmental education programs, etc. We had to guarantee that we could increase tourism, not just tourism for economic benefit but rather to boost cultural and educational activities, such as at the Shuck Toak Visitors Center, where we are prepared to receive 10 to 12 school groups daily.”