Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Bottomless Lakes State Park were recognized as international wetlands of global importance, Tuesday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico State Parks led a ceremony detailing the recognition and the parksâ€™ special international designation by the Ramsar Convention.
The designation was the first for New Mexico and only the 29th in the United States. â€œThis is something to be proud of, not only for the state park and the refuge, but for the citizens of Roswell and Chaves County,â€ Joe Saenz, Bitter Lake manager said.
The Ramsar designation puts Roswell and its wetlands and wildlife parks in â€œvery good company,â€ Joy Nicholopoulos, deputy regional director of FWS Region 2, exclaimed during the ceremony that included local, federal and state officials.
Ramsar designations around the globe include the Florida Everglades, Brazilâ€™s Amazonian Mamirau Reserve and now Roswellâ€™s Artesian Wetlands.
Roswell Mayor Del Jurney also had words at the ceremony, and handed out the official Ramsar citations of wetlands to Sanez and Joe Kasuboski, Bottomless Lakes park superintendent.Â Inferencing the Roswell Incident, Jurney said Ramsar designation once again puts the community â€œon the international field of excellence.â€Â He thanked Bitter Lake and Bottomless Lakes, and national and state of ficials and their committees for their collaborative efforts in securing the designation.Â Jurney repeatedly emphasized the important economic impact that comes with the recognition.
â€œNot until I began to think about this celebration, did I fully understand the economic impact that these wetlands bring to our economy,â€ Jurney commented.
â€œAs our quality of life is enriched, so, too, is the quality of visits for those who select Roswell as their tourist destination. Many donâ€™t realize that billions of dollars are spent in southeastern New Mexico from wildlife and outdoor recreational activity. When efforts are made to conserve and to restore and promote our natural resources … jobs are created and private investments are enhanced. The economic impact of this designation is significant.â€
Other speakers included Lynn Ditto, on behalf of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, DN. M., Steve Patterson, former park superintendent of Bottomless Lakes and Sanez. Ramsar designation is awarded after a â€œlongâ€ application and nomination process.
Roswell Artesian Wetlands designation was finally awarded on Jan. 10, 2010, after a one-and-onehalf- year nomination process. The process includes several letters of recommendation from local and state wildlife agencies, members of Congress and stakeholders associated with the proposed site.Â In addition, Ramsar designated sites must meet one of nine criteria for designation. According to Saenz, Bitter Lake and Bottomless Lakes met five out of nine criteria required for designation.
â€œThatâ€™s not bad for being in the desert,â€ Saenz said. â€œThatâ€™s something to be proud about. Once the application was completed, it was reviewed by the Fish and Wildlife Service and sent to Washington. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Ramsar committee made recommendations for inclusion into the Ramsar site. The application was reviewed by the secretary general of Ramsar and eventually the site was added as the 29th site in the United States.â€
The Ramsar designation puts Roswell in a â€œdistinct group of wetlands,â€ which Jurney hopes will not only attract tourists to Roswell, but compel them to stay around for a while.
â€œWhen we get someone to Roswell for a day, weâ€™ll keep â€™em for two â€” hopefully three, and itâ€™s tourism,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s the economic value that weâ€™re looking for. â€œ
According to Fish and Wildlife, Bitter Lake and Bottomless Lakes encompasses more than 2,200 acres of wetlands and diverse natural habitats for three endangered species: Roswell and Kosterâ€™s spring snails and the Noel amphipod, in addition to many other animals and plants.Â On the banks of the Pecos River, the Roswell Artesian Wetlands are fueled by the Roswell Basin, â€œthat forms a series of springs, seeps and sinkhole lakes at both sites.â€
â€œThis designation is part of a global community,â€ Nicholopoulos said.Â â€œBitter Lake is in the company of Everglades International Park. How cool is that?â€
Ramsar is an international treaty signed in Iran, in 1971, that promotes wetland conservation throughout the world. For more information on wetlands of international importance, visit ramsar. org.