Binational Crusade to Save Wetlands

Stephen Leahy*

TORONTO, Sep 8 (Tierramérica) – With 20,000 hectares of bright green in a sea of sand in the state of Sonora, the Ciénaga de Santa Clara is one of Mexico’s richest coastal ecosystems. Faced with the imminent reopening of a desalinisation plant just across the border in the United States, a binational team is working to protect the vast wetland.

Ongoing drought conditions in the south-western United States has prompted the George W. Bush government to finance the restart of the long unused Yuma Desalting Plant (YDP) in the border state of Arizona in 2007.

“Full operation of the desalting plant would mean the ciénaga will get less water and the water would be much saltier,” said Karl Flessa, professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

And “that would completely eliminate the wetland,” according to Jaqueline García-Hernández, a scientist at a food and development research centre (Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo) in the Mexican city of Guaymas, Sonora.

The Ciénaga de Santa Clara is home to some 225 species of birds, like the Yuma clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis) and southwest willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), which are rare in the United States.

— Tierramerica and Inter Press News Service

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