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The destruction of man's habitat is an age-old pattern as illustrated by examples from Asia, Africa and America. Equally old are attempts to save certain parts of the environment. The United States pioneered a new method in nature preservation with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Since that time national parks have become a worldwide phenomenon. Mexico, whose geography contains many areas of national park caliber, was an early participant in this movement. The grandeur of the Mexican landscape has been admired by travelers since Cortez. The country's climate and physiography combined to produce a variety of areas, ranging from tropical rain forests to alpine meadows. Most of mountainous Mexico, however, suffers from insufficient rainfall. The arid climate created a rather delicate ecological balance that could easily be upset by man, especially with the arrival of Europeans. Although there have been attempts at forest preservation, in the colonial period, there began a process of exploitation of natural resources that was to accelerate to disastrous proportions in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, just as Mexico's natural resources were rapidly exploited, there appeared the beginnings of a conservation movement. The Revolution of 1910 marked a new approach in national land policy. In 1917, Mexico established its first national park. Two laws in 1926 and in 1927 laid the basis for the creation of future parks. Using this legal foundation, the majority of Mexico's forty-eight national parks were established between 1935 and 1942. In the absence of other regulatory legislation, national parks were used as means to preserve important watersheds, historical monuments, recreational areas, regions with unique flora or fauna. Most of these national parks were located near the most populated part of the country where their various uses were most needed. This period of Mexican national park legislation was characterized by the lack of a comprehensive policy toward the problems of usage, administration and enforcement. Following 1942, there were fewer national parks established, but the laws became somewhat more precise regarding them. The period between 1942 and 1961 saw the emergence of a government policy theoretically favoring the establishment of international parks with Mexico's neighbors. Legislation between 1942 and 1961 established rather clear rules regarding the administration of the parks, their use for recreation and development, the conduct of visitors and fixed penalties for violators. The climate and physiography of Mexico and the destruction of its natural resources made Mexico national parks serve multiple purposes. Successive legislation slowly developed a national park policy that tried to deal with the various problems facing Mexican national parks. By 1961, Mexico possessed a rather comprehensive body of national park legislation, but lack of finances and qualified personnel prevented their application in all but thirteen of the national parks.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Donald Colgett Cutter

Second Committee Member

Richard Nathaniel Ellis

Third Committee Member

Gerald David Nash



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