The LGEEPA was enacted in 1996 as an effort to improve protection of the environment in response to rising environmental concerns. It organizes the general legal framework for NPAs in articles 44 to 77bis. The LGEEPA’s Regulation provides more details on its implementation.
Definition – Article 3 of the LGEEPA defines NPAs as areas of the national territory where the environment has not been significantly altered by human activities, and areas where the environment requires restoration and preservation efforts. The principal purposes of NPAs are to ensure sustainable development, preserve or restore the rich biodiversity of specific ecosystems, and ensure the social and economic development of populations dependent on NPA resources.
Institutions – The LGEEPA gives authority to the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) to create, supervise and manage NPAs. The LGEEPA additionally created a National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) to serve as a consultation and support structure for SEMARNAT. Under the LGEEPA, these institutions oversee the management and administration of NPAs while favoring the process of decentralization through the participation of states, municipalities, fisheries-centric and agriculture-centric communities, indigenous people and social organizations. SEMARNAT, through CONANP, designates a Director to oversee the day-to-day administration and management of an NPA. This Director is chosen based on his/her knowledge of the local area and of the ecosystem targeted by the NPA.
It is important to note that fishery management in Mexico is administered by a separate part of the federal government: the Department of Fisheries (CONAPESCA), which is housed under the Secretariat of agriculture and livestock (SAGARPA). Because one federal department is responsible for fisheries policy and a different federal department is responsible for NPAs, the two (fisheries and NPAs) are not managed in tandem even though they are inextricably linked. (For more information click here or here)
Rules – The LGEEPA designates, in article 65, the Management Plan as the main organizational tool of an NPA. Each NPA must have a Management Plan that details specific rules regarding (1) how natural resources will be monitored, managed, and restored; (2) which activities – exploitation of natural resources, tourism, scientific research, environmental education, etc. – can or cannot be performed in defined zones; and (3) how the Management Plan will be evaluated (LGEEPA article 66, and its Regulation).
The LGEEPA includes guidelines and procedures for determining the content of a Management Plan. One important requirement of the Plan is a zoning determination, and the LGEEPA offers a classification of different “zones” that require specific levels of protection. Core zones are designated to preserve biodiversity. In these zones, all activities that alter the ecosystem can be banned. Buffer zones are dedicated to activities that can benefit the local community without harming the ecosystem, such as fishing for local consumption. Zoning of the NPA is determined in the Management Plan.
Creation of an NPA
- The process starts with a preliminary study carried out by SEMARNAT, alone or in conjunction with other institutions such as universities and research centers. The preliminary study evaluates an area’s biological features, its economic resources, its traditional uses, the social conditions of local communities, and the cultural and historical characteristics of the area. The study includes a proposed management plan that addresses zoning, administration, operation, and financing.
- This preliminary study is made available for public consultation for 30 days. During this time, SEMARNAT also solicits the opinion of state and local governments, government agencies with jurisdiction, public and private social organizations, indigenous peoples, universities, research centers, and other institutions having an interest in the establishment, administration, and monitoring of the area.
- If, following these consultations, SEMARNAT decides to establish a protected area, a decree is promulgated. The decree establishes the NPA and contains information on the area’s precise geographic location and boundaries. It describes the activities that can and cannot take place in the area, and those that require authorization. In addition, the decree provides guidelines for the establishment of the Management Plan.
- After the decree, SEMARNAT has one year to create a detailed Management Plan with participating interested parties. Every 5 years, the management plan must be evaluated and revised as necessary.