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Amanda Maxwell’s Blog

You Can't Do This: New Video Illustrates the Laguna San Ignacio Campaign's Success

Amanda Maxwell

Posted January 22, 2013 in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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One of the reasons working for NRDC is so gratifying is the remarkable feeling of exhilaration and joy that comes with each victory, knowing that we have played a part in helping to protect the planet and the people who depend on it. From my perspective in NRDC’s international program, that sense of joy is multiplied because I know that our successes are achieved through tireless teamwork across borders, cultures and often languages, too. The Laguna San Ignacio campaign, which started in the mid-1990s and lasted years, is the quintessential example of how NRDC works internationally with local partners to create change. This great new video illustrates how we and our allies fought to make the Laguna San Ignacio campaign a success and, more generally, how our organization works abroad (video is below).

Before you get to the video, a bit of context could be helpful:

In 1995 Mitsubishi proposed building a colossal saltworks factory on the San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico’s Baja California, the last pristine breeding ground of the California grey whale. The industrial project would have devastated this special safe haven. People quickly rallied to tell Mitsubishi, “You can’t do that,” and NRDC eagerly joined the fight. What ensued was one of the largest environmental campaigns in history: an international, multi-faceted effort in which NRDC collaborated closely with our partners and brought our international resources to bear on Mitsubishi. After five years, Mexican President Zedillo cancelled Mitsubishi’s project on March 2, 2000, saving the gray whales' sanctuary and ensuring that the local communities could continue to live in an environment free of the saltworks factory's pollution. In 2005, NRDC joined forces with other U.S. and Mexican groups to form the Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance, a coalition dedicated to ensuring the long-term protection of the lands around the lagoon so that no other proposals can again threaten the gray whales there.

Since that victory, NRDC has returned to the lagoon every year to meet with partners, talk to the local communities and, of course, see the whales. The stories my colleagues bring back from these trips are inspiring, and help illustrate why that fight was so critical. Here’s a small sample from Taryn Kiekow, Joel Reynolds, and Frances Beinecke.

And so, please take a look at our new video:

NRDC is again working closely with allies at the southeastern tip of the peninsula to protect the thriving coral reef at Cabo Pulmo. This national park is a true BioGem – pulsing with marine life and cared for by a small but remarkably dedicated community. When a Spanish developer proposed to build a huge, terribly designed tourism complex called Cabo Cortés next to the park which would have destroyed the reef, we and our partners stood firm and said “you can’t do that.” Like in Laguna San Ignacio, Mexican President Calderon heard our arguments and cancelled the project, and hearing that news was one of the highlights of 2012 for me. Although that specific fight is over, many other developers are waiting in the wings, eager to build their own versions of Cabo Cortés next to Cabo Pulmo. So, like in Laguna San Ignacio, we and our partners are looking for long term solutions to protect this BioGem indefinitely.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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