The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition was founded in 2004 at the El Paso Zoo in collaboration with El Paso Water. CDEC is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization serving as a resource on information about the Chihuahuan Desert and encouraging lifelong learning about the Chihuahuan Desert. The board of directors and members collaborate with educators and the public. We want everyone to know what CDEC is doing to help educate others about the Chihuahuan Desert. The Chihuahuan Desert is considered the epicenter of cacti diversity with 318 species of 1500 species worldwide.
2020 Board of Directors
Chair – Rick LoBello
Secretary – Mark Pumphrey
Treasurer – Heather Rivera
Treasurer – Sarah Murphy
Director – Diane Perez
Board members direct this organization at monthly board meetings. If you are interested in serving on the board or a committee please contact us.
Carlos Rodriguez, City of El Paso Parks and Recreation
John White, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Advisory Board members help with special projects and offer advice and assistance as needed.
2019 – Proud Sponsor of the Chihuahuan Desert Conference at the El Paso Zoo
The Chihuahuan Desert Conference at the El Paso Zoo on November 6-8, 2019 will celebrate the opening of the new Chihuahuan Desert exhibit while bringing together local, state and federal protected area staff, educators and various stakeholders from across the Chihuahuan Desert region. The goal of the conference will be to facilitate collaboration in the Chihuahuan Desert and to share what we are learning from ongoing research projects, conservation initiatives and educational programs.
2017 – Chihuahuan Desert Certified Habitat Program
The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition encourages residents to landscape with native plants and create backyard habitats that will attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife. These mini habitats, when connected with other natural areas in the neighborhood, can make a real impact in helping wildlife such as birds needing trees to build their nests and butterflies needing nectar from flowers. Backyard habitats landscaped with native plants from our local Chihuahuan Desert also help the community conserve drinking water. Examples of drought tolerant plants include desert willow, yellow bells, acacia, sotol, ocotillo, and wooly butterfly bush. It’s easy and free to certify your yard as a Chihuahuan Desert Certified Habitat.
2015 – Cleveland Square Native Plant Project
This project was funded by the City of El Paso as part of a Think Tank Project that former City Manager Joyce Wilson sponsored in March 2011. El Paso Zoo Education Curator Rick LoBello proposed a El Paso Outside project designed to help El Pasoans share our city with native plants and wildlife in their neighborhoods, local and regional parks, and protected natural areas. Outcomes of the project included a YouTube video, graphics highlighting native plants living at Cleveland Square and a Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition Certified Habitat program.
2010 – Chihuahuan Desert Conference
CDEC sponsored a Chihuahuan Desert Conference A Desert Without Borders on November 13-14, 2010 at the Carlos M. Ramirez TecH2O Water Resource Learning Center in El Paso. The conference was organized by members of CDEC in hopes that a meeting of researchers, educators and members of conservation organizations would help to increase awareness of the research underway in the Chihuahuan Desert. In addition to presentations by Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith and Dave Simon, Director of New Mexico State Parks, the conference featured 12 concurrent sessions highlighting up-to-date Chihuahuan Desert Research and Education Projects completed in recent years. A poster session featured other projects followed by an evening social event at the El Paso Zoo.
2004 – First Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta
This year on September 30, 2017 CDEC will help to organize the 13th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta sponsored by Franklin Mountains State Park. The first fiesta was sponsored by CDEC in September of 2005 and has been the organization’s signature project ever since. The main goal of the event has been to encourage people to connect and learn about and appreciate the Chihuahuan Desert. Educators from across the region offer free presentations and demonstrations designed to introduce the curious to the wonders of our fascinating desert.
The Chihuahuan is the largest desert in North America
It stretches all the way from the southwestern United States deep into the Central Mexican Highlands.
Because of the region’s high altitude – 3,000 to 5,000 feet – winters and nights are cool while summer days can reach temperatures over 100 degrees. Very little rain falls in the area, but underground springs, small streams, and the Rio Grande River provide plants and animals with precious water.
The Chihuahuan Desert’s diverse habitats provide a kaleidoscope of textures and colors that shape its unique landscapes. Mule deer, pronghorn and kit fox roam the vast grasslands of the northern desert. In the desert scrub, roadrunners scurry after earless lizards while golden eagles search among the agave and creosote for blacktailed jackrabbits. But the magnificent landscape is threatened by an ever-increasing human population, water misuse and mismanagement, overgrazing by cattle and goats, and a lack of knowledge regarding the desert’s ecological importance.
Find more information on our Resource page.
Three easy steps you can take to help others in our community learn to share the Chihuahuan Desert with native animals and plants
1. Learn about it. Follow some of our desert links and plan a walk, picnic or drive to see some of the Chihuahuan Desert scenery.
2. Volunteer to help educate others about the desert by joining a local group or by spending 15 minutes or more per week at home helping to reach out to others and develop new content for this website – Contact us
3. Speak out on behalf of the Chihuahuan Desert by talking about a local conservation issue with the media, your representative or at a public meeting like those hosted by your city council or commissioners court.