Tour operators look for a solution to blockades at El Pinacate biosphere reserve

By Kendal Blust
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2022 - 2:51pm

Audio icon Download mp3 (1.18 MB)

El Pinacate
Alejandro Olivera/Center for Biological Diversity
El Pinacate.

Tour operators in neighboring Sonora are trying to come to an agreement with communal landowners near the El Pinacate biosphere reserve after blockades have cut off entrance to key areas.

Sonoran tour operators are asking government leaders to resolve a dispute with communal land owners, known as ejidatarios, in Puerto Penasco that has led to blockades at the vast El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve — a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its spectacular desert landscapes, dotted with enormous craters, sand dunes and lava flows, and its rich biodiversity, including endemic species like the Sonoran Pronghorn.

Blockades at the reserve have been ongoing for years, but have expanded in recent months, cutting off access to El Pinacate’s sand dunes and visitors center.

Julio César Rascón Torres, president of the state tour operators association, said the blockades are harming state tourism and cutting into operators' bottom lines. He says some visitors from out of state and international travelers canceled trips to Sonora because of the closures.

Rascon and others want federal and state leaders to reach an agreement with ejidatarios who want to sell land in and around the reserve.

Until then, he said, tour operators are willing to pay an entrance fee to landowners if they offer services like trash collection or guided tours. He said the tour companies would offer training to ejidatarios who wanted to become licensed guides.

Fronteras Sonora Southwest Border Tourism