The border between the United States and Mexico is nearly 2,000 miles long, stretching from San Ysidro, California to Brownsville, Texas. Discontinuous barriers currently cover approximately 650 miles of our southern border. As the particulars of how to better secure the remaining 1,350 miles of border are worked out, one thing is abundantly clear: extending physical barriers would negatively impact wildlife and the environment.
The Trump Administration has called for a 1,000-mile wall, which would cut across land that includes important habitats for wildlife. According to an article signed by nearly 3,000 scientists, this plan would “threaten some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions” by inhibiting species movement and triggering flooding. The paper, which was published in the journal Bioscience, highlights how more than 1,500 native animal and plant species would be affected by the wall, including 62 that are listed as endangered or vulnerable.
An extended border wall would not only impede movement of many wildlife species but it would also put pressure on creatures already in peril, such as the Mexican gray wolf and the Sonoran pronghorn. Other at risk animals include the ocelot, black bear, and desert bighorn sheep.
According to researchers, extending the border wall could cause problems for low-flying birds and insects. Even plants, including the endangered wildflower Zapata bladderpod and the threatened whiskerbush cactus, are particularly at risk.
According to a 2011 study, bird-watching and other forms of ecotourism in the Lower Rio Grande Valley brought in more than $344 million in economic activity and approximately 4,400 jobs.
Preserving our natural heritage must be part of this national security discussion.
Photo, posted December 14, 2014, courtesy of Tony Webster via Flickr.