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Home | Tag Archives: Big Bend National Park

Tag Archives: Big Bend National Park

El Paso Zoo, Big Bend National Park Partner for Wildlife Conservation

The El Paso Zoo will be piloting a Zoo-Park Partnership with for America’s Keystone Wildlife with Big Bend National Park to coordinate efforts to conserve wildlife.

“The natural recolonization of the black bear to Big Bend National Park from the cross border population in northern Mexico is one of the most important conservation stories in Texas,” said El Paso Zoo Education Curator Rick LoBello. “I was very fortunate to help document and launch current conservation efforts in Big Bend when I worked there many years ago.”

“Big Bend National Park has incredible diversity, including its wildlife. And the story of black bears in the park is unique among National Parks as it was the first of its kind of wildlife recolonizing a park area,” said park Resource Management Chief David Larson. “Bears are important to the ecology of the park, and we look forward to furthering their story and conservation.”

The zoo successfully worked with Big Bend National Park to create the Black Bear Habitat Improvement in Big Bend National Park Project to apply for the grant.

The project focuses on three components: (1) remove non-native invasive vegetation, (2) place food storage boxes in backcountry, and (3) bear-proof power poles in park.

This winter, the zoo will send a group of “citizen steward” volunteers and staff to work in the park to help complete the project.

Funding was made possible for this partnership when the El Paso Zoo and Big Bend National Park were awarded the $10,000 Winter 2018 America’s Keystone Wildlife Project Grant (AKW) from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

The Project partners zoos with National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges to help America recover the wildlife legacy lost during the fur trade and westward expansion era of the United States, and was founded by Julie Anton Randall, Project Leader.

The El Paso Zoo is among a small inaugural group of accredited zoos selected that meet certain criteria, including AKW Field Conservation, Reciprocal AKW Interpretation, and AKW Citizen Stewardship engaging communities in ensuring park sustainability.

El Paso Zoo, Big Bend Park Awarded Zoo-Park Partnership Grant

Silver Spring, Maryland – The El Paso Zoo, in partnership with Big Bend National Park have been awarded the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) America’s Keystone Wildlife (AKW) grant recipients for 2018.

“The collaborations between AZA, our member zoos and aquariums, and government entities enable us to protect our nation’s native wildlife and wild places,” said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of AZA. “These partnerships have led to the successful recovery and reintroduction of American bison, black-footed ferrets, and other species once on the verge of extinction in our own backyards.”

Made possible by a Thoresen Foundation gift to AZA, these five $10,000 grants will be used to conduct conservation activities benefitting North American species on public lands as a part of Zoo-Park Partnerships, an initiative designed to unite zoos and National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and National Forests and Grasslands (“parks”) in restoring sustainable habitats and wildlife populations.

Zoo-Park Partnerships (ZPPs) help America recover the wildlife legacy lost during the Fur Trade and Westward Expansion era of U.S. history and improve wildlife population health, genetic integrity and habitat in ways that also benefit local communities on public lands today.

Zoos and parks also provide opportunities for inspired visitors to participate in “citizen stewardship” volunteer work that directly improves habitats and quality of life for AKW animals.  The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) is a primary AKW Project partner.

The 2018 Grant Recipients include:

  • El Paso Zoo, partnering with Big Bend National Park
  • Blank Park Zoo, partnering with Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
  • Dakota Zoo, partnering with Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Naples Zoo, partnering with Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Red River Zoo, partnering with Wind Cave National Park

“Wildlife are a vital part of the historical landscape our National Parks and Refuges sustain and interpret. Partnerships with AZA zoos build capacity for restoring healthy wildlife populations and habitats and provide a key platform to share this important story of stewardship with zoo and park visitors alike,” said Julie Anton Randall, ZPPs for AKW Project Leader.

All AZA-accredited facilities are eligible to receive funding. Successful grant recipients demonstrate ZPP plans centered on field conservation, interpretation, and/or citizen stewardship in line with the goals of the America’s Keystone Wildlife™ (AKW) Project.

To learn more, visit

Op-Ed: No Park is an Island

Last month I was blessed in having the opportunity to meet the River and the Wall feature documentary team in Austin.    I spent two days with Ben Masters, Hillary Pierce, Austin Alvarado, and Jay Kleberg sharing everything I knew about Big Bend National Park and the long proposed US International Park with Mexico.

I was so happy to meet these folks and to learn about all the great projects they are working on to help Texans and people around the world connect with our natural treasures and learn about the Rio Grande and how one of the most endangered rivers in North America is threatened by Trump’s border wall.

The film will be released sometime in 2019 and will take viewers for a wild adventure through one of the most rugged landscapes in North America.  The wall threatens not only America’s natural heritage, but also one of the most biologically diverse regions on the continent.

I hope it doesn’t happen – but if it does – the film might end up documenting the last visuals of the river valley before a wall is constructed and the Rio Grande is changed forever.

Over the past two years I have been meeting with a small group of people who care about protecting large open spaces in West Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico.   We call the region we are focusing on the Greater Big Bend.

One of the exciting projects we are just getting started with is a Chihuahuan Desert Conference planned for the first week of November, 2019.  We are looking for new members to help plan this important meeting and just help get the word out that we exist as a new group.

If you are interested in a new challenge or just the opportunity to network and support a regional conservation group like this, the Greater Big Bend Coalition might be just right for you.

Prior to moving to El Paso I worked in our national parks including Big Bend National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Yellowstone National Park.   During my 25 years working in the parks I discovered that no park is an island and that the lands protected in parks are acutely connected to the lands around them.

As a result what happens outside a park can have a serious impact on wildlife living in a park as numerous species travel across park boundaries in order to find food, water, habitat and potential mates.   Biologists call these travel routes wildlife corridors and here in El Paso we can see every day how wildlife corridors are being destroyed by human development of all sizes.

The threats to wildlife corridors are very real and those threats are almost everywhere.


In order to help build bridges to facilitate relationships with land managers, researchers and stakeholders from all walks of life, we have invited speakers to come to El Paso to help us better understand and connect with the entire region.

To learn more about our group, I would like to invite you to meet others and hear a presentation from the Superintendent of Davis Mountains State Park at 2pm on Saturday, May 19 at the Northeast Regional Command Center on Dyer.

To learn more about this meeting and more about our group check out our website at


Author: Rick LoBello – Rick has worked in the field of conservation education since 1973 when he started his career as Zoological Curator at the Kansas City Museum of History and Science. He has spent 25 years working as a park ranger and Executive Director at four national parks including Big Bend, Yellowstone, Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks.  (read more about Rick HERE)

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