CONTACT: Economic Development Department
Global Engagement Office
SAN ANTONIO (October 27, 2020) – Co-hosted by the World Affairs Council of San Antonio and the City of San Antonio’s Global Engagement Office, Tuesday’s two-part Biodiversity without Borders program focused on sustainable policies in North American cities. The event brought together policy experts as well as local government representatives from Montréal, Canada; Guadalajara, Mexico; and San Antonio, Texas to discuss the work and policy being done in their respective cities. This event took place during the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival and featured a preview of a special documentary that will air on October 29.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg kicked off the program with Dr. Rachel McCormick, Canadian Consul General to the state of Texas, and Dr. Rubén Minutti, Mexican Consul General in San Antonio. The three spoke about the importance of collaboration across borders on environmental and sustainability issues.
“This event aligned with the annual arrival of our friends, the monarch butterflies, who remind us of the continued importance of collaborative sustainable policy across North America.” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “Through ‘SA Climate Ready,’ we are proud to join other world cities to prioritize investments that regenerate the beauty and livability of our community along with protecting the native species, air, water, and land that sustain us.”
San Antonio is fortunate to have a legacy of conservation initiatives. One such example is the Alamo Area Monarch Collaborative. Community partners formed the collaborative in 2016 after the City of San Antonio committed to the National Wildlife Federation’s “Mayors’ Monarch Pledge”. Since then, the group has created a conservation plan to educate the community and work with local government on policy initiatives and habitat restoration.
“Enhancing green and blue infrastructure, regenerating biodiversity, and protecting natural ecosystems are major resiliency strategies in San Antonio’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan which was recently adopted on October 17, 2019,” said Julia Murphy, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of San Antonio. “The monarch butterfly is the state insect of Texas and migrates through our region twice annually as many other species do. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to recognize the vulnerability of nature and the need for urban support,”
During Tuesday’s program, the San Antonio River Authority announced the North American Friendship Garden – an exciting collaborative project currently under development at Confluence Park. Several representatives from partner organizations, along with District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca J. Viagran, were on hand to tour the future site. A gift from the people of Canada and Mexico through their respective Consulates General, the 2500 square foot North American Friendship Garden will feature large pollinator plants, art benches, a seed library, and even a “bug hotel”. Developed in partnership with the San Antonio River Authority, the San Antonio River Foundation, and the City of San Antonio, the Garden serves as a landmark of trilateral cooperation and dedication to sustainable practices. In addition, the thousands of families and students who visit Confluence Park every year will find even more value in learning about pollinators, insects, and the important reasons for conservation.
“We’re thrilled to collaborate with the City of San Antonio, the Canadian and Mexican Consulates, and the San Antonio River Foundation to create the North American Friendship Garden at Confluence Park,” said Suzanne Scott, General Manager of the San Antonio River Authority. “Confluence Park is named after the nearby confluence of San Pedro Creek with the San Antonio River, and now, with the addition of the North American Friendship Garden, the park will also represent the important confluence of sustainability and biodiversity between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.”
“The Government of Canada is pleased to be a part of the new North American Friendship Garden in San Antonio, where Canada, Mexico and the U.S. all met to initial the original NAFTA in 1992,” Dr. Rachel McCormick, Consul General of Canada in Texas, said. “Today we are celebrating a new USMCA agreement that includes an environmental chapter, and this garden is a tangible example of our three nations working together, literally from the ground up, to build a better environment for generations to come.”
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval met with the Consul General of Canada to the state of Texas and the Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio to break ground on the special garden. Observing proper social distance protocols, they discussed the special garden and the potential for continued collaborations in the future.
“The North American Friendship Garden, at the unique Confluence Park, reflects the longstanding, healthy and productive relationship between Canada, the United States and Mexico,” said Dr. Rubén Minutti, Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio. “Our Government is very pleased to celebrate our trilateral ties with this garden; a true symbol of friendship, solidarity and cooperation between our countries.”
The second half of the program featured a guided discussion and conversation with representatives from Montréal, Guadalajara, and San Antonio. The session included a brief history of San Antonio’s role in the tri-national Mayors Monarch Pledge by the National Wildlife Federation and was moderated by the U.S. Staff Lead for the international CitiesWithNature network. In conjunction with World Biodiversity Day last May, San Antonio has been invited to be the first city in Texas to join the initial cohort of ICLEI's CitiesWithNature, an initiative that recognizes and enhances the value of nature in and around cities through opportunities to connect on an international platform.
Topics focused on local policies that advanced borderless ecology and how human existence is inter-dependent on the health of a natural world. Additionally, all three cities are members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network – an international cooperative alliance of cities that have pledged to leverage creativity and culture into sustainable development. These cities are committed to sharing their best practices and developing partnerships for action and innovation, such as the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
To view the archived video of the event, visit the World Affairs Council YouTube channel at: https://bit.ly/WorldAffairsSA
A photo from Tuesday’s event, as well as a concept photo and land map of the SARA North American Friendship Garden, and information about the art benches, Seed Library, and Bug Hotel that will go in the garden, are available for download via this link.