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Since 2001 The Comisión Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP), National Commission of Protected Natural Areas, has administrered rigourously the Mexican national parks and nature areas. In the years before, these areas were administered by a federal government ministry. Another key element of CONANP’s mission is to reduce the poverty and marginalization of rural communities and indigenous people. This agency has been a innovator in creating transparency withinan administration that has historically managed itself in an opaque manner. This “young” government agency is leading the way maintaining Mexico’s natural spaces intact for future generations as well as being an example for other Mexican bureaucracies in sound management and good governance.

Mexico has 158 Protected Natural Areas which encompass National Parks, Biosphere Reserves, Nature Sanctuaries, Natural Monuments, Protected Fauna and Flora Areas, and Protected Natural Resource Areas.

The list includes 67 National Parks. National Parks are lands that have been protected from commercial development. Examples include the Archipelago de San Lazaro National Park in Baja California, Los Remedios National Park in Mexico City, and Costa Occidental de Isla Mujeres National Park in Quintana Roo.

The list also contains 35 Biosphere Reserves. Biosphere Reserves contain biologically diverse organisms, with one or more ecosystems that remain untouched by humans. They may also contain organisms that are endangered or nearly extinct. These include Los Petenes in Campeche, Ria Celestun in Yucatan, and Sierra de Manantlan in Jalisco.

There are also 17 Nature Sanctuaries on the list. These areas contain sensitive species of plants and animals, which may experience significant risks. These Nature Sanctuaries consist of 16 beaches, such as Playa de Puerto Arista in Chiapas, Playa el Tecuan in Jalisco and Playa de la Isla Contoy in Quintana Roo, and 1 island group, the Islas e Islotes de Bahia de Chamela.

Protected Flora and Fauna Areas make up 29 areas on the list. Examples are El Jabali in Colima, Laguna Madre and Rio Bravo Delta in Tamaulipas and Sierra de Alvarez in San Luis Potosi.

There are also 6 Protected Natural Resource Areas on the list. These include bodies of water and forests, such as Las Huertas in Colima and Cuenca Alimentadora del Distrito de Riego 01 Pabellon in Zacatecas y Aguascalientes.

Also included are 4 Natural Monuments. The monuments contain at least one natural component and have historic or scientific value. These include Bonampak and Yaxchilan in Chiapas, Yagul in Oaxaca, and Cerro de la Silla in Nuevo Leon.

There are various activities you can do in these protected natural areas, such as sightseeing, hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, snorkeling and scuba diving, among others. You may opt to stay overnight in some sites that have accommodations and restaurants nearby.