Eco Tours in Mexico - Sustainable Tourism & Conservation Laws
Environmental laws in Mexico can be somewhat confusing for those that are more accustomed to how western governments approach them. The overall focus of environmental laws in Mexico is to place a large measure of control over land into the hands of local people. While the government still retains overall control of the final uses of the land under its national jurisdiction, the land is maintained and managed by local towns and other forms of local governance. The result is that it is very unlikely for ecotourists to simply march off alone into the wilderness with a backpack, and locals will often require tourists to commission guides for all trips into lands they control. This may be a surprise to ecotourists that are accustomed to lands existing in public trust, which are freely accessible to all.
CITES regulations as well as internal Mexican quarantine and wildlife laws prohibit the interstate transport of wildlife in Mexico. Due to the large amount of endemic species that are scattered throughout Mexico, the transportation of all wildlife across state borders is prohibited without special permits. Each state border is staffed by armed police that retain the right to search for illegal goods including wildlife.
The ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement has led to a boom in foreign capital investments with Mexico. This translates into a larger amount of foreign holdings of Mexican lands, acting in much the same way that the aforementioned local management process does. This promotion and expansion of tourism in Mexico has led to a large number of hotels and resorts being built in sensitive areas, sometimes resulting in harm for the local environment. Statistically, the tourist destinations in Mexico that have the lowest overall impact on the local environment are those which are maintained by the smaller local managers. The smaller size of these operations makes their impact much less apparent, and the hiring of these operations by tourists helps to promote sustainable local economies.
For ecotourists looking to take a vacation in Mexico, there are a wealth of opportunities depending on what they want to do. For example, the higher level of development means that many rural areas that were once very inaccessible are now readily so. Given the diversity of the landscapes to be found in Mexico, this means that trips taken by people of all physical capacities and budgets can see much more of the country. While the lion's share of the Mexican tourist industry is centered around the coast, development has made the interior and southern regions of Mexico much more accessible.
In terms of coastal tourism, there are a few cities and regions that remain more popular than others. Acapulco, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, and the Baja Peninsula are extremely popular destinations not only for their resorts and hotels, but for the exceptional opportunities for diving, snorkeling, and caving that they provide. The unique landscapes of these areas provide a lot of options for adventure travelers, with the diversity of possible activities being a large draw of the area.
Interior Mexico has also seen a rise in development and a corresponding rise in tourism. As large tracts of undeveloped land become more accessible by plane and car, more tourists are able to get into contact with local guides and managers. This greater level of contact helps make a trip much easier to plan, and therefore much more successful overall. Most people that go to interior Mexico for vacation chose to either visit the expansive deserts of the north, or the extremely dense jungles of the south. With recent violence in northern Mexico becoming more visible in the news, many southern interior destinations have seen a rise in tourist numbers. Travelers to the north often make their way to the popular Copper Canyon for amazing views, hikes, and topographic diversity. In the south, Oaxaca is a very popular state in Mexico for its lush jungle habitat.
While the rules and laws in Mexico governing the environment may seem confusing to some, they are actually fairly straightforward and the average tourist will not find him or herself with any issues. The most important thing to keep in mind is extra costs for guides on any treks that tourists plan on taking. Wildlife laws are fairly standard, and anyone not transporting or hunting wildlife will not have any problems.