The Mexican state of Tamaulipas located in the northeastern portion of the country currently has five state nature reserves covering slightly less than 3% of its land area. These reserves were established for a variety of reasons, many unrelated to the protection of biological resources. In 2000 in response to a growing concern about the lack of organized conservation reserve planning to protect the important biological and physical features of Mexico, the Mexican Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) proposed 13 new terrestrial reserves for Tamaulipas. If established these new reserves would increase the proportion of terrestrial protected lands in the state to over 21%. We compiled a geographic information system (GIS) using existing digital thematic maps of physical and biological features to examine how the existing and proposed reserves might serve to protect the biodiversity and physical features of the state. We found that most of the existing protected sites occur in areas with elevations > 1000-2000 m with temperate climate and dominated by pine forest, oak forest, and cloud forest vegetation cover types. The state's dominant biotic region - low elevation coastal plain with tropical and arid climate types and xeric scrub vegetation - is disproportionately underrepresented in the current reserve system. The creation of the proposed areas would substantially increase the protection of mid and high elevation lands. The largest gap in the protected lands network would be low elevation, level, coastal lands.