Writer: Jane Moorman, (505) 249-0527, email@example.com
ALBUQUERQUE - Ecosystems, wildlife, and watersheds know no boundaries, especially international borders. Sharing technical information between foresters in the United States and Mexico has helped address environmental issues on both sides of the border.
Since 1968, foresters from the Southwest Chapter of the Society of American Foresters and members of the Chihuahua Chapter of the Associación Mexicana de Professionales Forestales have met every two years to share the knowledge they have gained. Each reunion, or meeting, is alternated between countries; it was held in Albuquerque in October.
New Mexico State University's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences professors John Mexal and John Harrington are actively involved in the reunions and collaborative international projects that have evolved from the friendships made during the meetings.
"Out of the 32 sections of the Society of American Foresters, the Southwestern Section is the only one that has had a continuous interchange with a foreign forestry association," said Mexal, Plant and Environmental Science interim department head. "Discussions and presentations include basically everything that helps improve our forest areas.
Southwest forests are similar to those in northern Mexico, so sharing philosophies and technical knowledge has helped the foresters in both countries.
"We face the same challenges," said Harrington, director of forest research at the Mora Research Center. "We assume that the U.S. is on the cutting edge of technology, but in a lot of cases, such as erosion technology, mapping and some of the basic applied techniques, we are adapting technologies developed in Mexico. Or we learn of ways to use our technology that we hadn't thought of previously."
"Mexico has a fairly sophisticated forestry program," Mexal said. "It is a fairly progressive program, but often activities are limited by economic resources."
Before each biennial meeting, leaders from each professional society determine three topics of shared importance to each country. At the meeting six presentations, one from each country on each topic, are presented and discussed.
For example, this year Kent Reid from the Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute at New Mexico Highlands University, and Melitón Tena-Vega, from Mexico's National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research's Campana-Madera Experimental Center, presented watershed restoration projects being done in both countries.
The second day of the reunion involved a field trip to see various restoration projects involving ponderosa pine, piñon and juniper, and upland meadows.
"The sharing of ideas goes both ways," said Harrington. "By looking at two independent evolutions of programs, you can see the strengths and limitations of each program.
The associations created at the reunions have fostered several exchange programs on both sides of the border. NMSU has worked with a number of people both on forestry and agricultural projects, including a project Mexal and Tena-Vega did in Ojinaga, Mexico.
This project involved growing short-rotation woody crops - poplar and eucalyptus - using municipal wastewater. The idea behind the project was to produce fiber for a pulp mill in Chihuahua using the effluent from the community of Ojinaga.
"This would be an avenue of economic development and, at the same time, reduce pollution going into the Rio Grande. The project was funded for seven years by the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy and the International Arid Land Consortium," Mexal said.
Another exchange program involved 96 Mexican foresters working at U.S. Forest Service locations across Arizona and New Mexico on three-month assignments. Tena-Vega said this five year program helped the foresters learn forest management techniques.
"They did a variety of work, primarily natural resource improvement of wildlife and timber," Tena-Vega said. "They gained practical experiences they could take home."
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