S3E14: Saving El Paso's Rio Bosque Wetlands

S3E14: Saving El Paso's Rio Bosque Wetlands

Chris Clarke interviews activist Jon Rezendes about the threats facing the Rio Bosque Wetlands in El Paso, Texas

About our Guest:

Jon Rezendes is an influential conservationist with a dedication to the preservation and rewilding of the Chihuahuan Desert region, particularly in El Paso, Texas. His military background brought him to El Paso, where he found a second home amid the natural beauty of the desert landscape. As the Vice President of the Frontera Land Alliance and a board member of the Texas Lobo Coalition, Rezendes is a champion for environmental causes in the region. He is a strong advocate for the protection of the Rio Bosque wetland, a critical riparian habitat threatened by development proposals.

Episode Summary:

In this thought-provoking episode of "90 Miles from Needles," host Chris Clarke engages with Jon Rezendes to explore the rich ecological landscape and current environmental threats facing the Chihuahuan Desert, particularly the battle over the Rio Bosque wetlands in El Paso. The conversation provides an in-depth look at the socio-political challenges and the community's fight to prevent detrimental changes.

Jon Rezendes passionately discusses the significance of protecting the delicate Rio Bosque wetlands against proposed infrastructure projects such as a disruptive highway. The area, crucial for migratory birds and local flora and fauna, faces the pressure of urban sprawl and industrial traffic which could irrevocably damage this unique ecosystem. Supported by the local community and organizations, Rezendes highlights the urgent need for advocacy and action to sustain this natural gem. He envisions a future where rewilding efforts expand, forever changing the local desert into a cradle of biodiversity that could one day welcome apex predators like the Mexican wolf back into the region.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Rio Bosque wetlands near El Paso are a vital habitat for over 260 bird species and numerous other animals, yet they are currently endangered by various threats, including proposed highway projects.
  • Jon Rezendes advocates for realistic and sustainable alternatives to alleviate traffic that don't damage vital ecosystems, such as improving the existing rail transit system.
  • Defenders of the wetland are rallying against Texas DOT's proposal for highway construction, gathering community support through petitions and local agency involvement.
  • The vision for the Rio Grande Valley is one of expanded rewilding, potentially re-establishing apex predators like the Mexican wolf and removing barriers such as the border wall for ecological restoration.
  • It's critical for the conservation community and influencers beyond Texas to support the efforts to protect and rewild the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems.

Notable Quotes:

  • "We intend to shine enough light on this situation to make sure that we're elevating the voices of the people in Socorro that don't want their home to be turned into an unrecognizable industrial wasteland."
  • "El Paso is small in terms of our influence, but we are mighty in terms of our grassroots efforts."
  • "We are not going to let this happen. This is absolutely backwards, and we will do anything in our power to prevent a highway through our wetland."
  • "Nothing would make me happier to know that wolves are running up and down the Rio Grande Valley again, passing between Mexico and the United States."
  • "Rio Bosque is fighting for survival amid Texas' broader environmental narrative, where prosperous future melds with respect for the land and vibrant riparian forests."


As we delve into the rich tapestry of environmental activism and the future of the Chihuahuan Desert, we invite listeners to experience the full episode as Jon Rezendes shares his urgent advocacy call for Rio Bosque wetlands. Tune in and join this engaging conversation that may very well shape the natural legacy of Texas and beyond. Stay connected for more episodes from "90 Miles from Needles" that continue to enlighten and inspire.

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