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Big Bend International Park Historical Timeline 1932-2014

June 18, 1932   Governments of Canada and the United States of America proclaimed Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park, together, as the world's first International Peace Park.  In response to post World War I efforts to promote world peace, Rotarians from Montana(US) and Alberta (Canada) played an instrumental role in convincing their governments to create the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the world's first international peace park.

 


Casa Grande Peak in the Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park is the most photographed mountain in Texas.
Photo by Rick LoBello.

 

October 8, 1934   Albert William Dorgan (1887-1985), of Castolon, Texas (in Big Bend National Park) writes to Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes--with a brief and plan for the establishment of an international park on the Rio Grande.  Dorgan becomes the first person to ever ask the federal government to establish a park in the Big Bend district of Texas.

February 16, 1935   Texas Senator Morris Sheppard writes a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggesting a park of international scope in the Big Bend area.

 

February 16, 1935   Senator Morris Sheppard (D-TX), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, writes a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggesting a park of international scope in the Big Bend area.  Sheppard also mails two additional letters to National Park Service Director Arno Cammerer and Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and provides them with copies of the letter he mailed to Roosevelt.  On four of his typewritten letters, he changes "national" park by hand to read "international" park in Big Bend--including his letter to President Roosevelt. These letters document the first time that Texas asked for a federal park project in what is today Big Bend National Park.

October 5 and November 24, 1935      Meetings were held in El Paso, Texas between officials of the Mexican and United States governments at which time the International Park project was discussed and a temporary joint park commission established.

February 8, 1936      Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, with the approval of the President, established a formal commission to meet with officials of the Mexican Commission to formulate policies and plans for the establishment and development of International Parks, forest preserves, and wildlife refuges and the International Boundary with final recommendations of the joint commission to be submitted to both governments for consideration and approval.


February 17-25, 1936      The joint commission met at Alpine, Texas and inspected the area in Mexico, entering through Boquillas and spending several days in the Sierra del Carmen, the Fronteriza range, and inspecting some of the adjacent villages. They then returned to the United States and drove to Castolon, visiting San Carlos and other nearby points.


November 6-9, 1936      Another meeting was held in El Paso by the joint commission and other interested parties and citizens. The east and the west boundaries of the proposed International Park on the the international line were agreed upon at that time. Markers were established at these points in 1937 by the United States Boundary and Stream Commission. The western point is just below Lajitas, the eastern point is just above Stillwell Crossing. The Mexican Government approved the location of these markers.


April 28, 1940      Article published in the Daily Oklahoman describes efforts to create international park with the headline "While Europe Fights, Mexico and America Plan Peace Park."


October 12, 1940      The Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Protection in the Western Hemisphere was signed to promote conservation between the United States and Mexico.


1941      The U.S. section of the joint commission was changed and Mr. M.R. Tillotson, Regional Director, of the National Park Service at Santa Fe, New Mexico, was designated as chairman.


1942      The Mexican government also reconstituted their section of the International Commission.


June, 1942      Mr. Tillotson and others went to Mexico City to discuss the project with the new Commission members, but did not achieve much as the Mexican members were not familiar with the situation.


WORLD WAR II INTERVENED, AND NOTHING FURTHER WAS ATTEMPTED UNTIL THE PROJECT WAS REVIVED IN 1944.


June 12, 1944      Big Bend National Park was officially established by the U.S. Congress.


October 24, 1944      President Franklin D. Roosevelt writes a letter to His Excellency General Manual Avila Camacho, Presient of the United Mexican States. He states that "I do not believe that this undertaking in the Big Bend (refering to the establishment of Big Bend National Park) will be complete until the entire park area in this region on both sides of the Rio Grande forms one great international park."


November 30, 1944      President Camacho responds to President Roosevelt's letter. In his letter he agrees with Roosevelts and states that he has instructed the Department of Foreign Relations and that of Agriculture and Formento to pursue as actively as is suitable studies that would lead to the creation of the Mexican Section of the said Park.

 

January 16, 1945   The Director of the National Park Service writes to the State Department, "referring to the proposed international peace park in the Big Bend section of Texas and suggested that the subject be kept alive through discussions with proper Mexican officials."


January 30, 1945  The State Department requests the American Embassy in Mexico City "to inquire, and inform the Department...regarding any steps which the Mexican authorities may plan to take or have taken to carry out President Camacho's special instructions regarding studies looking towards the establishment of a Mexican National Park adjacent to the Big Bend National Park."

 

March 5, 1945      U.S. Chief of Lands, Conrad Wirth, writes a letter to Dr. H.W. Morelock, President of Sul Ross College in Alpine concerning progress on the international park. He states that "the National Park Service can do little more than keep in touch with the Mexican officials indirectly by occassional letter, which is not an effective means of making substantial progress in the Big Bend situation. Your contacts, and the contacts of Mr. Burgess and others, with the Mexican people appear to us to be far more constructive than anything we might undertake at this time."

 

April 1945   A meeting sponsored by the Chihuahua Chamber of Commerce is held in Chihuahua "for the purpose of advancing the Mexican national park project adjoining the Big Bend National Park.  This meeting is attended by Regional Director Tillotson of the National Park Service and Superintendent Ross Maxwell of Big Bend National Park.


April 12, 1945      Death of Franklin D. Roosevelt


April 16, 1945      Letter to George Collins of the National Park Service in Chicago from William Vogt, Chief, Conservation Section, Pan American Union, Washington states that "the biggest obstacle in rounding out the Big Bend area is, at the present of course, the total lack of interest on the part of the Minister of Agriculture (Mexico) in whose jurisdiction the Parks fall."

 

April 18, 1946      President Truman wrote President Camacho of Mexico inquiring about the results of the investigation the Mexican Government was to make on Big Bend International Park and urging the establishment of the international park.

 

December 6, 1948   Hillory A. Tolson, Assistant Director of the National Park Service, speaks with the Department of State regarding "Proposed Mexican decrees establishing parks adjacent to the Big Bend National Park and Coronado International Memorial."  The State Department cautioned Tolson that "in the event that American interests should be expropriated in these areas it would be more difficult the negotiations which would probably result" and advised that "we would be glad to discuss the matter further in a meeting with Mr. Tolson."


1946     President Manual Avila Camacho's term as President of Mexico ends.


May 30, 31 and June 1, 1950      "El Universal" daily newspaper in Mexico City published articles urging the creation of the "International Park of Friendly Nations."


1981-1986      Big Bend National Park Superintendent Gil Lusk initiated a long-term plan of friendship and communication on the grassroots level between the park and the border region in Mexico. Heads of State were taken on Rio Grande float trips and Mexican park managers were trained at Big Bend.  


August 14, 1983      An agreement between the United Mexican States and the United States of America on Cooperation for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment in the Border Area was signed.

 

1986-1990      Big Bend National Park Superintendent Jim Carrico continued the Lusk initiative with closely with Coahuila Governor Eliseo Mendoza Berrueto.

 

October 14, 1988      Coahuila Governor Eliseo Mendoza Berrueto leads a group of staff members, private landowners, Mexican biologists and U.S. government officials on a trip into the Maderas del Carmen to inspect part of the area to be protected by the Mexican government across the border from Big Bend.  


October, 1988      An agreement of understanding between the National Park Service and the State of Coahuila was signed by Governor Eliseo Mendoza Berrueto, NPS Regional Director John Cook and Superintendent Jim Carrico. The agreement espoused cooperation between the two countries in research and preservation of the shared environment along the border. A similar agreement was later signed with the state of Chihuahua.

 

May 5, 1995      Delegates attending a International Good Neighbor Council Spring Convention in Saltillo, Coahuila adopt a resolution urging both the U.S. and Mexican governments to move forward in creating a international park in the Big Bend region.

 

January, 1997 - National Park Service U.S. Mexico Affairs Director Howard Ness presents program on binational efforts to create a International Park in the Big Bend National Park area.

 

March 11, 1997 - Carlsbad Rotary Club approves a resolution urging the U.S. and Mexico to see international park project to completion and that the park be designated a "Rotary International Peace Park."

 

May 3, 1997 - District 5520 Conference in El Paso approves resolution encouraging government officials in the US and Mexico to see the original 1935 proposed Peace Park to completion.

 

May 5, 1997 - Letter of Intent between the Department of the Interior (DOI, US) and the Secretariat of the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries (SEMARNAP, Mexico) for joint work in natural protected areas signed in Mexico City during President Clinton's visit with President Zedillo. Agreement specifically called for increased cooperation in the wildlife protection areas in Mexico of Maderas del Carmen in Coahuila and Canon de Santa Elena in Chihuahua, and the adjacent protected area in the United States at Big Bend National Park in Texas.    


September 12, 1997      At a Bi-District meeting in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Rotary International Districts 5520, USA and 4110, Mexico adopted at Statement of Mutual Cooperation supporting the creation of a Rotary International Peace Park in the Big Bend area of West Texas and Northern Mexico. Since 1997 nine current and past District Governors from both Districts 5520 and 4110 have been working with the Presidents and members of clubs from both sides of the border to help with the peace park. Past Rotary International (RI) Vice President Sonny Brown with the help of Past RI President Jim Lacy and RI President-Elect Frank Devlyn from Mexico City have all actively shown their support.


November 29, 1997      Rotary District 5510 Governors (current, 1 past and two governors elect) met in Las Cruces and established a Steering Committee to enable better planning, focus and communication in regard to the creation of a Rotary International Peace Park.

 

December 1997-February 1998 - Carlsbad Museum (NM) displays new Peace Park exhibit featuring District 5520/4110 initiative. 


February 8, 1998 - District 5520/4110 Peace Park Educational Initiative organizational meeting held in Las Cruces, NM.

 

April 1, 1998 - District 4110 published special report distributed at District Conference in Juarez entitled "Parque Rotario Internacional de la Paz."  New bilingual exhibit displayed during the meeting attended by nearly 1000 Rotarians from Mexico.   Most Rotarians ask "how can I help?" 

 

May 1, 1998 - District 5520 publishes special report distributed at District Conference in Ruidoso entitled "Rotarians in the U.S. and Mexico rekindle dream of a International Peace Park."   Peace Park Committee presents special program on the project and unveils new exhibit.

 

June 18, 1998 - Art Graff speaks to the Rotary Club of Fort Stockton, Texas.

 

June 16, 1998 - Art Graff speaks to the Rotary Club of Marfa, Texas.

 

June 4, 1998 - Art Graff, President of Rotary Club of Alpine, Texas begins series of presentations on the Peace Park with a presentation to his Alpine Club.

 

June-August, 1998 - Peace Park Exhibit displayed at Chamizal National Memorial Visitor Center and gallery in El Paso.

 

July 11, 1998 - Second meeting of the District 5520/4410 new committee held at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso.

 

August 11, 1998 - Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, President of Mexico, writes letter to District 5520 Governor Robert Wootten saying that he was pleased to learn about District 5520/4110 efforts to create a Peace Park including the historic meeting to dedicate the effort at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso.

 

August 15, 1998 - District 5520/4110 committee meeting held in Juarez at the Pueblito Mexicano.  

 

August 21, 1998 - In a letter to District 5520 Director of the National Park Service Robert Stanton states that Rotary can play a key role in the effort to create a international park by doing much of the ground work needed to develop the political consensus necessary to garner support for Congressional legislation.  

 

August 25, 1998 - Art Graff speaks to the Rotary Club of Van Horn.

 

October 7, 1998 - In a letter to District 5520 Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs of the Department of Interior, Brooks B. Yeager, welcomes Rotary as a partner in helping the DOI develop a strong program for technical exchange and cooperation with the Government of Mexico under the Letter of Intent signed on May 5, 1997.

 

October 27 1998 - Art Graff speaks to the Rotary Club of Del Rio, Texas.

 

September 18, 1998 - National Park Service U.S. Mexico Affairs Director Howard Ness attends 18th Border Liaison Mechanism Meeting and discusses Rotary's efforts to create the Peace Park with several U.S. and Mexican participants.  The proposal was enthusiastically received.

 

November 7, 1998 - Rotary District 5520/4110 Dedication Ceremony held at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso.  Dignitaries in attendance include Rotary International President James L. Lacy, Superintendent of Big Bend National Park Jose Cisneros, Lic. Enrique Provencio Durazno, Presidente Institute Naciional de Ecologia, SEMARNAP, Dr. Glen Coulter of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Association and Mayor of El Paso Carlos Ramirez.

 

November 9, 1998 - District 5520/4110 Peace Park Committee members join nearly 60 other conservationists, biologists, government officials, and landowners from the United States and Mexico to discuss cooperation in the management of joint resources in protected areas along the Texas-Mexico border in Big Bend.

 

November 9, 1998      At a Bi-District dedication ceremony at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas, attended by government officials from the U.S. and Mexico and Rotary International President Jim Lacy, over 400 Rotarians from both Districts 5520 and 4110 joined hands in officially dedicating Rotary's long-term commitment to the creation of the International Peace Park. 

 

February 27, 1999 - Rotarians present program on Peace Park at a board meeting of the Friends of Big Bend National Park at Big Bend National Park.

 

March 8, 1999 - Rotary International President-Elect (2000-2001) Frank Devlyn of Mexico City addresses District 4110 in Juarez offering his continued support for the District 5520/4110 effort to promote the creation of a Peace Park.  At the meeting speaks about the project with members of the Juarez media.

 

March 30, 1999 - Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club proclaims support for District 5520/4110 Peace Park efforts.

 

April 1, 1999 - 12 page feature article, "Uniting La Frontera" in April issue of Environment magazine reports on Rotary efforts and other important information on ongoing efforts to Establish a Transboundary Park. 

April 1, 1999 - Letter from Andrew Sansom, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers support for Rotary Peace Park efforts and reports that new exhibits at the Big Bend Ranch State Park promote binational cooperation at every opportunity.

 

April 10, 1999 - Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt (US), Minister Julia Carabias (Mexico) and World Wildlife Fund President Kathryn Fuller join Big Bend National Park Staff and staff of the Maderas del Carmen and Canon de Santa Elena protected areas on a tour of the proposed Peace Park protected areas on both sides of the border.  Big Bend Superintendent Jose Cisneros reports on Rotary Peace Park proposal.

 

April 11, 1999 - District 5520/4110 Peace Park Committee Meeting, El Paso, Texas.

 

April 16, 1999 - Lic. Leonor Ortiz Monasterio, Coordinator for Civil Matters at the National Palace in Mexico City, writes letter of support for Peace Park to Civil Ambassador Rosario Green Macias, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mexico.

 

May 4, 1999 - Friends of Big Bend National Park offers support for District 5520/4110 Peace Park efforts.

 

May 22, 1999 - Multi-Media program on the Peace Park project presented to Rotarians attending District 5520 Conference in Silver City, New Mexico.

 

June 3, 1999 - Peace Park article published in the Alpine Avalanche.

 

June 28, 1999 - El Paso Zoological Society offers support for District 5520/4110 Peace Park efforts.

 

July 20, 1999 - Embassador Miguel Ruiz Cabanas, Ministry of Foreign Relations, Mexico writes letter of to District 5520/4110 Committee stating that the Peace Park proposal has been sent to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Fishery (SEMARNAP).

 

August 6, 1999 - Peace Park was topic of discussion on KROD Radio Program, El Paso.

 

August 21, 1999 - District 5520/4110 Peace Park Committee Meeting, Juarez, Chihuahua. 

 

August 11, 1999 - Letter from John E. Cook, Intermountain Regional Director on the National Park Service on behalf of Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt encourages Rotary International to continue its important advocacy role and to develop the political and diplomatic consensus that is required to establish such an international park.

 

August 18, 1999 - National Park Historian Dr. Michael Welsh addresses the Carlsbad Rotary Club and praises Rotarians for their efforts to help complete the 70 year effort to establish a Peace Park.  

 

September 19, 1999 - Letter to the Editor on Peace Park published in El Paso Inc.

 

September 24, 1999 - Rotarians have a phone conference on the park with Congressman Silvestre Reyes at the office of Sonny Brown in El Paso.  Congressman Reyes supports the effort to create the park.  

 

September 25, 1999  - "Peace Across the Border" featured in the Sunday Living Section of the Carlsbad Current Argus.

 
September 26, 1999 - Letter to the Editor on Peace Park published in the El Paso Times. 

 

September 11, 2001 - United States Attacked by Terrorists in New York City and Washington, DC

 

August 2, 2002 - Ernesto Enkerlin, Presidente, Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (Mexico) informs Rick LoBello at a World Wildlife Fund sponsored meeting in Chihuahua City, Chihuahua that Mexico is interested in moving forward with discussions to establish an international park in the Big Bend area.

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March 28, 2003 - Rotarians in El Paso meet with park officials from Big Bend and adjacent protected areas in Mexico at the University of Texas in El Paso to discuss a proposed International Park Conference to help move the project forward.  

January, 2004 - Big Bend National Park Superintendent John Kings meets with Regional Director Steve Martin in Austin, Texas.  At the meeting they address formulating a position paper on the international park and King meets with Texas Governor Perry's staff who state that the "Governor is upset with Mexico over water allocation issues and is not favorable disposed to working with them on things until such time as the water dispute is cleared up."

 

March 23, 2006 - US and Mexico sign Sister Parks NPS-CONANP Agreement setting the framework for increased cooperation on the US. Mexico border.  This designation is considered by many to be a a first step towards formalizing a long-standing informal partnership that could eventually lead to a more formal, legislated type of designation.

 

October 26, 2006 - The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was enacted October 26, 2006 in the United States. The act allows for over 700 miles (1,100 km) of double-reinforced fence to be built along the border with Mexico across cities and deserts alike in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

 

July 9, 2007 - Big Bend Superintendent Bill Wellman writes Rick LoBello at ILovePark.com the following: 

An international park is certainly a good idea. As you well know, it has been discussed for many years and most likely will one day be a reality.  It is a concept that the National Park Service continues to support. However, with the current national debate over border security and immigration, I fear you may have a difficult task resurrecting the project at this time. We do wish you well with your efforts.

 

July 10, 2007 - Congressman Ciro Rodriguez presents House Resolution 483 recognizing the 63rd Anniversary of Big Bend National Park, established on June 12, 1944.  The resolution states that "Together with two Mexican protected areas, Big Bend is now part of the largest transboundary protected areas in North America, serving as a model for international cooperation."

 

July 19, 2007 - Texas Senator Elliot Shapleigh sends Congressman Ciro Rodriguez a letter in support of the international park.

 

January 23, 2008 - Hundreds of people in Presidio and Brewster County protest Homeland Security's plans to build a US/Mexico Border wall.

 

March 1, 2008 - In McAllen, Texas on the campaign trail President Candidate Barack Obama in speaking about the border fence/wall says that he "has no desire to pursue a costly and ineffective project." 


March 31, 2009 - Alfonso Martinez calls Rick LoBello at ILoveParks.com informing him that he and others with the Museo Maderas Del Carmen in Monterrey, Mexico are working with the Governor of Coahuila on a presentation in support of the international park when President Calderon meets President Obama in mid April.

July 29, 2009 - Congressman Ciro Rodriquez of Texas introduced H.Res.695 – “supporting an international park between Big Bend National Park in the United States and the protected areas of the Coahuila and Chihuahua States across the border in Mexico.”  The non-binding resolution resolves, ”that the House of Representatives supports an international park between Bend National Park in the United States and the protected areas of the Coahuila and Chihuahua States across the border in Mexico; and Requests that the President in conjunction with the Secretaries of Homeland Security, Interior, and State discuss with Mexico and study the probability of designating an international park.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

May 19, 2010 - At a meeting at the White House Presidents Obama and Calderon noted the long history of bilateral cooperation in the conservation of natural and cultural resources.  They recognized that Big Bend National Park and Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River in the United States and the Protected Areas of Maderas del Carmen, Cañon de Santa Elena, Ocampo, and Río Bravo del Norte in Mexico together comprise one of the largest and most significant ecological complexes in North America.  In doing so, they recognized that increased cooperation in these protected areas would restrict development and enhance security in the region and within this fragile desert ecosystem.  To preserve this region of extraordinary biological diversity, they expressed their support for the United States Department of Interior and the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources of the United Mexican States to work through appropriate national processes to recognize and designate Big Bend – Rio Bravo as a natural area of binational interest.  The Presidents underscored their commitment to manage the region in a way that enhances security and protects these areas for wildlife preservation, ecosystem restoration, climate change adaptation, wildland fire management, and invasive species control.

October 24, 2011 - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada today announced a working plan that identifies the next steps for the continued coordination between the two countries in the protection and preservation of the transnational Big Bend/Rio Bravo region – North America’s largest and most diverse desert ecosystem.

June, 2013 - Big Bend Gazette publishes Op-Ed by Rick LoBello "Big Bend Rio Bravo International Park."

April 19, 2013 - Rick LoBello met with Congressman Beto O'Rourke (TX-16) and staff in El Paso asking for his support. Congressman O'Rourke helps to set up a meeting between Rick and Congressman Gallego. O'Rourke offers to help anyway he can such as in communications with Homeland Security if Gallego takes the lead.

June 7, 2013 - Rick LoBello met with Congressman Pete Gallego and requests his help in creating legislation to establish a US Mexico International Park in the Big Bend National Park and Northern Mexico region. Gallego offers his support and advises that it will be important to get the support of Senator Cronyn and Senator Cruz.

June 16, 2013 - The El Paso Times publishes an Op-Ed "Rick LoBello: International park project needs a push for completion.

July 8, 2013 - Rick LoBello met with El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and briefed her on his meeting with Congressman Gallego regarding the Big Bend Rio Bravo International Park effort.

 

August 1, 2012 - El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar hosts a meeting with Rick LoBello and Senator Cronyn’s Regional staff to brief them on efforts to create a Big Bend Rio Bravo International Park.

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August 5, 2013 - Rick LoBello briefed Rotary 5520 District Governor Kit Turpen on the history of Rotary efforts to help create a US Mexico park.

September, 2013 - El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar helps to arrange for UTEP intern Nikolas F. Tineo to assist Rick LoBello in conducting research on US Department of the Interior guidelines for an international park.

November 15, 2013 - Rick LoBello presents a Celebration of Our Mountains presentation at the Westside Regional Command Center in El Paso entitled "Big Bend - Rio Bravo International Park." The presentation focused on the history of the park and how a giant US Mexico international park in the Big Bend would help both countries better address key issues such as protection of water and air quality, control of invasive species, and management of wildland fire.

 

January 15, 2014 -  A  previously unknown collection of  34 letters mailed to Albert William Dorgan (1887-1985) in Castolon, Texas, is discovered in North Carolina.  Dorgan was the first man to ever petition Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes to establish an international peace park on the Rio Grande.


July 14, 2014 -  The Department of State central decimal files related to the National Park Service, Big Bend National Park, and the international park project along the Rio Grande are located in the National Archives.  These records span 1935 to 1949 and significant alter the known timeline of the international park history.



Special thanks to Jason Abrams for his help with the November 22, 2014 update to this timeline.



 

 

 

 

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