NAFTA Environment Commission Will Solicit Public Input For San Pedro Conservation Area Report

Montreal, 7/2/1997 – A small, interdisciplinary team of experts is being assembled by the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to study water use and its impact on migratory birds in the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area in Arizona. The group will begin gathering technical information within the next few weeks to prepare a preliminary study of the site.

Findings of the expert group will be presented to a trinational panel this fall. The panel will include representatives from the local region and will assist the Secretariat in soliciting public input. The study is the first step towards a final report addressing the sustainable use of water for human and economic activity while protecting the habitat for millions of migrating birds along the San Pedro River.

Last month, the CEC Secretariat — created by the environmental side accord to NAFTA — announced that it was launching an independent report to examine water issues in the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area, an important resting place for millions of migratory birds which travel between Mexico, the United States and Canada. Last year, the CEC Council — composed of Canadian Environment Minister Christine Stewart, Mexican Secretary of the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries Julia Carabias, and US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner — recognized the San Pedro Conservation Area as an important corridor for migratory birds. In doing so, the Council highlighted the shared responsibility for protecting critical habitats for birds and species that link the NAFTA countries.

The CEC will contribute a neutral evaluation of the competing forces for water in the area, taking into account the importance of the San Pedro Conservation Area for North America as a whole, says Victor Lichtinger, Executive Director of the CEC. Drawing upon lessons learned in other areas of North America, this trinational effort will open new avenues for broader consensus and will provide the local community with new information to face the challenges ahead.

The Secretariat will prepare the final report under Article 13 of the environmental side accord to NAFTA, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). Under the NAAEC, the Secretariat can prepare a special report to the CEC Council on environmental matters that fall within the scope of its work program.

The funds for the Article 13 report will come directly from the CEC budget, with equal contributions from the three NAFTA countries.