Thursday, September 13, 2007
Salon today has an excellent article about the environmental devastation a border fence along Texas and Mexico would create, particularly to an endangered group of ocelots, that used to hunt through Eastern Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, but now number as few as 125. The hateful wall would cut right through the middle of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Nature Wildlife Refuge, and could threaten one of the largest wildlife refuges in the country.
In Texas, 225 miles of fencing will begin to be installed this fall. A large percentage of that fencing will be built in the valley along the unique river bank and habitat that follows the Rio Grande. It would cut across more than a dozen refuges and parks totaling more than 100,000 acres. Critics warn the fence and its accompanying patrol roads will sever critical wildlife corridors on the animals' natural territories. Animals depend on these corridors to reach mates, and seek food and water. If the fence is installed, says Martin Hagne, director of the nonprofit Valley Nature Center, "it will be a huge catastrophe." Hagne is a member of an unusual coalition of environmentalists, local farmers, ranchers and local business interests fighting the fence.
Border fences would also require high-speed patrol roads next to it, and to access it which would have a huge impact on local wildlife. In places, the swath of fence and roads could become 150 yards wide. "Building a 150-foot wide strip of fencing and two roads is going to have a major impact on wildlife," says Ernesto Reyes, an ecology services biologist for Fish and Wildlife in the valley. At the Southmost Preserve, where Najera pointed out the animal tracks, it's easy to recognize an established watering spot. Yet the earthen berm where the security fence would likely be built is just yards away. Animals might have to travel miles out of their way to find a new watering spot. And road kills on improved patrol roadways will increase, Reyes says.
In Arizona, Homeland Security worked closely with the Sierra Club and the local Wildlife Federation, but eventually invoked its power to bypass Federal requirements and upgraded the wall to be "impenetrable, with no consultation whatsoever. Not to mention the tourism dollars it will suck up for areas like McAllen, who take in over $34 million a year in wildlife tourism.
It's a depressing story, but I realize that people in support of this wall care about very little but their own homogenized cultures and personal comforts. I've always thought it was nothing but a hateful, mean-spirited and hostile symbol, not to mention that most experts deem it totally irrelevant.
Homeland Security argues the Rio Grande fence will deter illegal immigration. Yet the Border Patrol's Rio Grande sector itself has raised questions about whether it would make much of a difference. Its sector office told the Government Accountability Office in 2005 that the rugged geography of the area in the Rio Grande sector, which includes the Lower Valley river corridor and especially the rugged thorn brush country inland from the river, creates its own impenetrable fencing.
"The brush (inland from the river corridor) is so dense with sage, scrub brush and cacti that it has created an inhospitable environment for … smugglers or illegal aliens," the report states. Because there are only two highways leading north from the Lower Valley, the local Border Patrol stated that it could intercept illegal immigration within its existing checkpoints. In fact, from 2000 to 2005, the number of apprehensions reported by the local Border Patrol climbed from 108,000 to 134,000, according to a report by Syracuse University.
It kind of just makes me want to move to Mexico.