Living With Animals: The Wall

By Hope Bidegainberry on January 19, 2018

I know better than to jump into politics, especially at this time. My focus is the animals, crossing all parties and ideologies, and I am glad for that. So this is an apolitical all animal column on a very hot political topic: the proposed and much debated Border Wall. What’s that got to do with animals…? Common sense, anything big and solid enough to stop a person from crossing that border is going to stop species in addition to our own. It’s for this reason that restrictions are placed on even fences and buildings planned in environmentally sensitive areas and the border certainly includes environmentally sensitive and indeed important habitat.

Mexico’s Federal Highway 2 closely parallels the U.S.-Mexico border and the traffic along its 1,219 miles (from Tijuana in Baja California to the mouth of the Rio Grande) has already proven deadly to much wildlife, including the Sonoran Pronghorn which is a highly endangered species. The highway created an impassable barrier down the middle of the native habitat of these animals, commonly called “prairie ghosts” because they are so elusive, requiring an extensive and to date successful bi-national recovery effort which has cost the U.S. and Mexico tens of millions of dollars. The Wall would end that success story: a permanent barrier almost certain to result in the extinction of the species. While this alone would likely stop most any other project in the U.S., a 2005 Federal law (the Real ID Act) allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “waive all laws [including Federal environmental protection laws] to ensure expeditious construction of certain barriers and roads at the U.S. border.” This past August, DHS took advantage of this law to begin construction of wall prototypes in San Diego.

Many other species are at similar risk. This threat to migration patterns and other survival strategies has now led a number of southern border U.S. cities and Native American Nations to send letters to President Trump urging him to find other means to secure the border.

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