• Trump’s Border Wall Could Impact an Astonishing 10,000 Species

      The list, put together by a team led by Dr. Gerardo J. Ceballos González of National Autonomous University of Mexico, includes 42 species of amphibians, 160 reptiles, 452 bird species and 187 mammals. Well-known species in the region include the jaguar, Sonoran pronghorn, North American river otter and black bear.


      http://therevelator.org/trump-border-wall-10000-species

    • Border Security Fencing and Wildlife: The End of the Transboundary Paradigm in Eurasia?

      The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe has seen many countries rush to construct border security fencing to divert or control the flow of people. This follows a trend of border fence construction across Eurasia during the post-9/11 era. This development has gone largely unnoticed by conservation biologists during an era in which, ironically, transboundary cooperation has emerged as a conservation paradigm. These fences represent a major threat to wildlife because they can cause mortality, obstruct access to seasonally important resources, and reduce effective population size. We summarise the extent of the issue and propose concrete mitigation measures.

      http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002483
      #faune #Europe #Europe_centrale #Europe_de_l'Est #cartographie #visualisation

    • Rewriting biological history: Trump border wall puts wildlife at risk

      Mexican conservationists are alarmed over Trump’s wall, with the loss of connectivity threatening already stressed bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, bears and other animals.
      About one-third of the border, roughly 700 miles, already has fencing; President Trump has been pushing a controversial plan to fence the remainder.
      A wall running the entire nearly 2,000-mile frontier from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, conservationists warn, would be catastrophic for borderland ecosystems and many wildlife species, undoing years of environmental cooperation between the two countries to protect animals that must move freely or die.
      The wall is currently a key bargaining chip, and a sticking point, in ongoing immigration legislation negotiations taking place this week in Congress. Also expected this week: a federal court ruling on whether the administration can legally waive environmental laws to expedite border wall construction.


      https://news.mongabay.com/2018/02/rewriting-biological-history-trump-border-wall-puts-wildlife-at-risk
      #bisons

    • A Land Divided

      The national debate about border security doesn’t often dwell on the natural environment, but hundreds of miles of public lands, including six national parks, sit along the U.S.-Mexico border. What will happen to these lands — and the wildlife and plants they protect — if a wall or additional fences and barriers are built along the frontier?


      https://www.npca.org/articles/1770-a-land-divided
      #parcs_nationaux

    • R ULES C OMMITTEE P RINT 115–66 T EXT OF THE H OUSE A MENDMENT TO THE S ENATE A MENDMENT TO H.R. 1625

      US spending bill requires “an analysis, following consultation with the Secretary of the Interior and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, of the environmental impacts, including on wildlife, of the construction and placement of physical barriers” (p 677)

      http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20180319/BILLS-115SAHR1625-RCP115-66.pdf
      Extrait partagé par Reece Jones sur twitter
      https://twitter.com/reecejhawaii/status/977304504700780544

    • Activists Vow Fight as Congress Funds Portions of Border Wall

      Last week Congress voted to appropriate some monies to build new fortifications along the United States–Mexico border, but border activists in the Rio Grande Valley say the fight against President Donald Trump’s border wall is far from over.

      The nearly $1.6 billion in border wall funding included in the omnibus spending bill that Trump signed Friday provides for the construction of some 33 miles of new walls, all in Texas’s ecologically important Rio Grande Valley. Those walls will tear through communities, farms and ranchland, historic sites, and thousands of acres of protected wildlife habitat, while creating flooding risks on both sides of the border. But far from admitting defeat, border activists have already begun mapping out next steps to pressure Congress to slow down or even halt the wall’s construction.

      https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/activists-vow-fight-congress-funds-portions-border-wall

    • State attorney general, environmental group to appeal decision on Trump’s border wall

      A ruling by a San Diego federal judge allowing construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall to go ahead will be appealed by two entities that opposed it, including the state Attorney General.

      Both the Center for Biological Diversity and Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed formal notices of appeal on Monday seeking to reverse a decision in February from U.S District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel. The judge ruled that the Trump administration did not abuse its discretion in waiving environmental laws in its rush to begin border wall projects along the southwest border.

      The center had said after the ruling it would appeal, and Becerra also hinted the state would seek appellate court review at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

      The notices declare an intent to appeal. They do not outline arguments to be made on appeal or why each group believe that Curiel got it wrong.

      In a prepared statement Becerra said, “When we said that a medieval wall along the U.S.-Mexico border does not belong in the 21st century, we meant it. There are environmental and public health laws in place, and we continue to believe that the Trump Administration is violating those laws. We will not stand idly by. We are committed to protecting our people, our values and our economy from federal overreach.”

      The lawsuits challenged a law that allowed the federal government not to comply with environmental and other laws and regulations when building border security projects. They argued the law was outdated and Congress never intended for it to be an open-ended waiver for all border projects, and contended it violated constitutional provisions of separation of powers and states’ rights.

      In his decision Curiel said both that the law was constitutional and it gave the Department of Homeland Security wide latitude over border security.

      Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in response to the Curiel ruling that the administration was pleased DHS “can continue this important work vital to our nation’s interest.”

      “Border security is paramount to stemming the flow of illegal immigration that contributes to rising violent crime and to the drug crisis, and undermines national security,” O’Malley said.

      http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/sd-me-border-appeal-20180409-story.html

    • Les murs n’arrêtent pas que les humains

      Des États-Unis à la Malaisie, en passant par Israël ou la Hongrie, les hommes construisent de multiples murs pour contraindre les déplacements de nos semblables. N’oublions pas, explique l’auteur de cette tribune, que nous ne sommes pas les seuls à habiter la Terre et donc à pâtir de ces barrières.

      La #forêt_de_Bialowieza a quelque chose de mythique et de sacré. Âgée de plus de 8.000 ans, elle est la dernière forêt primaire d’Europe. S’étalant sur 150.000 hectares entre la Pologne et la Biélorussie, inaccessible aux visiteurs sans guide assermenté, elle constitue un sanctuaire d’espèces témoignant de la richesse des mondes anciens. Le bison d’Europe y vit encore de manière naturelle, côtoyant élans, cerfs, loups, lynx, etc.

      En 1981, à l’époque du rideau de fer, l’URSS a décidé de clôturer la frontière entre la Pologne et la Biélorussie, coupant à travers cette forêt et séparant en deux la dernière population de bisons d’Europe (environ 500 individus de part et d’autre). Cette clôture est symboliquement forte, car elle témoigne de la coupure existentielle (« ontologique », diraient les philosophes) que les humains se sont imposée vis-à-vis des autres êtres vivants. Ces derniers semblent ne pas exister à nos yeux.

      Mais cette séparation est plus que symbolique, elle est concrète. Les murs dressés par l’espèce humaine représentent une menace importante et sous-estimée pour de nombreux êtres vivants non humains.
      Murs de béton, de pierre, de boue, de sable ou de brique, de barbelés, de grilles en acier ou de clôtures électrifiées

      On en trouve surtout aux frontières : entre les États-Unis et le Mexique, la Corée du Nord et du Sud, Israël et la Cisjordanie, la Malaisie et la Thaïlande, l’Inde et le Pakistan, l’Iran et l’Irak, la Chine et la Mongolie, le Botswana et le Zimbabwe, etc. Ils prennent la forme de murs de béton, de pierre, de boue, de sable ou de brique, de barbelés, de grilles en acier ou de clôtures électrifiées, et viennent accompagnés de routes, de casernes, de lumières et de bruits. Leur nombre a considérablement augmenté depuis les attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Par exemple en Eurasie (sans le Moyen-Orient), il existe aujourd’hui plus de 30.000 km de murs, grillages et barbelés aux frontières.

      Ces murs affectent évidemment les populations humaines en brisant les trajectoires personnelles de millions de personnes. Ils affectent aussi les autres espèces [1]. À Białowieża, par exemple, la séparation a empêché les flux génétiques (et a donc fragilisé) des populations de bisons, d’ours, de loups et de lynx. Pire, 25 ans après la destruction du rideau de fer entre l’Allemagne et la République tchèque, les jeunes cerfs (qui n’avaient jamais vu de clôtures) ne traversaient toujours pas la frontière [2].

      En mai 2018 paraissait dans la revue Bioscience un article cosigné par dix-huit grands noms de l’étude et de la protection de la biodiversité (dont Edward O. Wilson) et signé par 2.500 scientifiques, qui alertait sur les « conséquences inattendues mais importantes » de ces murs frontaliers sur la biodiversité [3]. Ce cri d’alarme n’est pas le premier [4], mais il résume bien l’état des lieux de la recherche, et aussi l’état de préoccupation des chercheurs.
      Lorsque les habitats se fragmentent, les territoires des populations se réduisent

      Les murs nuisent à la biodiversité de plusieurs façons. Premièrement, ils peuvent blesser ou tuer des animaux directement, quand ils s’emmêlent dans les fils barbelés, sont électrocutés ou marchent sur des mines antipersonnelles.

      Deuxièmement, ils fragmentent et dégradent les habitats. Par exemple la frontière de 3.200 km entre le Mexique et les États-Unis traverse les aires de répartition géographique de 1.506 espèces natives (parmi lesquelles 1.077 espèces animales) dont 62 sont sur la liste des espèces en danger. Le mur menace cinq régions particulièrement riches en biodiversité (on les nomme « hotspots ») qui retiennent presque tous les efforts de conservation et de « réensauvagement » (rewilding). Lorsque les habitats se fragmentent, les territoires des populations se réduisent, et le nombre d’espèces présentes sur ces petites surfaces se réduit plus que proportionnellement, rendant ainsi les populations plus vulnérables, par exemple aux variations climatiques. Les clôtures frontalières contribuent aussi à accroître la mortalité de la faune sauvage en facilitant la tâche des braconniers, en perturbant les migrations et la reproduction, et en empêchant l’accès à la nourriture et à l’eau. Par exemple, le mouton bighorn (une espèce en danger) migrait naturellement entre la Californie et le Mexique mais ne peut aujourd’hui plus accéder aux points d’eau et aux sites de naissance qu’il avait l’habitude de fréquenter.

      Troisièmement, ces murs annulent les effets bénéfiques des millions de dollars investis dans la recherche et les mesures de conservation de la biodiversité. Les scientifiques témoignent aussi du fait qu’ils sont souvent l’objet d’intimidations, de harcèlements ou de ralentissements volontaires de la part des officiers responsables de la sécurité des frontières.

      Enfin, quatrièmement, les politiques de sécurité mises en place récemment font passer les lois environnementales au deuxième plan, quand elles ne sont pas simplement bafouées ou oubliées.
      Des centaines de kilomètres de clôtures de sécurité aux frontières extérieures et intérieures de l’UE

      Le double phénomène migrations/clôtures n’est pas prêt de s’arrêter. En 2015, un afflux exceptionnel d’êtres humains fuyant leurs pays en direction de l’Europe a conduit plusieurs États membres à réintroduire ou renforcer les contrôles aux frontières, notamment par la construction rapide de centaines de kilomètres de clôtures de sécurité aux frontières extérieures et intérieures de l’UE. Le réchauffement climatique et l’épuisement des ressources seront dans les années à venir des causes majeures de guerres, d’épidémies et de famines, forçant toujours plus d’humains à migrer. Les animaux seront aussi de la partie, comme en témoigne la progression vers le nord des moustiques tigres, qui charrient avec eux des maladies qui n’existaient plus dans nos régions, ou encore l’observation du loup en Belgique en mars 2018 pour la troisième fois depuis des siècles…

      Les accords entre pays membres de l’Union européenne au sujet des migrations humaines seront-ils mis en place à temps ? Résisteront-ils aux changements et aux catastrophes à venir ? Quel poids aura la « #Convention_des_espèces_migrantes » (censée réguler le flux des animaux) face aux migrations humaines ?

      En septembre 2017, un bison d’Europe a été aperçu en Allemagne. C’était la première fois depuis 250 ans qu’un représentant sauvage de cette espèce traversait spontanément la frontière allemande. Il a été abattu par la police.

      https://reporterre.net/Les-murs-n-arretent-pas-que-les-humains
      #Bialowieza

    • Les murs de séparation nuisent aussi à la #faune et la #flore

      3419 migrants sont décédés en Méditerranée en tentant de rejoindre Malte ou l’Italie. C’est ce que révèle un rapport du Haut commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés publié le 10 décembre. Il y a les barrières naturelles, et les murs artificiels. Pendant deux mois, le web-documentaire Connected Walls s’attaque aux murs de séparation entre quatre continents : le mur entre l’Amérique du Nord et l’Amérique latine incarné par les grillages entre les Etats-Unis et le Mexique, celui entre l’Europe et l’Afrique incarné par les barbelés qui séparent les enclaves espagnoles du Maroc. Tous les 10 jours, Connected Walls publie un nouveau documentaire de cinq minutes sur une thématique choisie par les internautes. Cette semaine, ils ont sélectionné la thématique « animal ».

      Cette semaine, sur Connected-Walls,Valeria Fernandez (USA) et Fidel Enriquez (Mexico) ont suivi John Ladd dont la famille possède un ranch dans l’Arizona, à la frontière mexicaine, depuis cinq générations. Depuis la construction du mur frontalier en 2007, les choses ont changé pour lui et pour les animaux.

      De leur côté, Irene Gutierrez (Espagne) et Youssef Drissi (Maroc) ont rencontré Adam Camara, un jeune de Guinée Équatoriale qui a tenté de traverser plusieurs fois le détroit entre le Maroc et l’Espagne. Lors de sa dernière tentative, il a reçu l’aide d’un mystérieux ami.
      Pour chaque thématique, un partenaire associatif a carte blanche pour rédiger une tribune. Celle-ci a été rédigée par Dan Millis, de l’organisation écologiste Sierra Club :

      « Les animaux se moquent bien des frontières politiques. Le jaguar de Sonora n’a pas de passeport, et le canard morillon cancane avec le même accent, qu’il soit à Ceuta ou dans la forêt de Jbel Moussa. Les murs et les barrières ont cependant un impact considérable sur la faune et la flore. Par exemple, les rennes de l’ancienne Tchécoslovaquie ne franchissent jamais la ligne de l’ancien Rideau de Fer, alors même que cette barrière a disparu depuis 25 ans et qu’aucun des rennes vivant aujourd’hui ne l’a jamais connue. Les quelques 1000 kilomètres de barrières et de murs séparant les États-Unis et le Mexique détruisent et fragmentent l’habitat sauvage, en bloquant les couloirs de migration essentiels à la survie de nombreuses espèces. Une étude réalisée grâce à des caméras installées au niveau des refuges et des zones de vie naturellement fréquentés par la faune en Arizona a montré que des animaux comme le puma et le coati sont bloqués par les murs des frontières, alors que les humains ne le sont pas. »


      https://www.bastamag.net/Connected-Walls-le-webdocumentaire-4545
      #wildelife

    • Border Fences and their Impacts on Large Carnivores, Large Herbivores and Biodiversity: An International Wildlife Law Perspective

      Fences, walls and other barriers are proliferating along international borders on a global scale. These border fences not only affect people, but can also have unintended but important consequences for wildlife, inter alia by curtailing migrations and other movements, by fragmenting populations and by causing direct mortality, for instance through entanglement. Large carnivores and large herbivores are especially vulnerable to these impacts. This article analyses the various impacts of border fences on wildlife around the world from a law and policy perspective, focusing on international wildlife law in particular. Relevant provisions from a range of global and regional legal instruments are identified and analysed, with special attention for the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species and the European Union Habitats Directive.

      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/reel.12169

    • Border Security Fencing and Wildlife: The End of the Transboundary Paradigm in Eurasia?

      The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe has seen many countries rush to construct border security fencing to divert or control the flow of people. This follows a trend of border fence construction across Eurasia during the post-9/11 era. This development has gone largely unnoticed by conservation biologists during an era in which, ironically, transboundary cooperation has emerged as a conservation paradigm. These fences represent a major threat to wildlife because they can cause mortality, obstruct access to seasonally important resources, and reduce effective population size. We summarise the extent of the issue and propose concrete mitigation measures.


      https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002483

    • Butterfly Preserve On The Border Threatened By Trump’s Wall

      The National Butterfly Center, a 100-acre wildlife center and botanical garden in South Texas, provides a habitat for more than 100 species of butterflies.

      It also sits directly in the path of the Trump administration’s proposed border wall.

      The federal spending bill approved in September includes $1.6 billion in 2019 for construction of the wall. In October, the Department of Homeland Security issued a waiver to 28 laws protecting public lands, wildlife and the environment to clear the way for construction to proceed.

      https://www.npr.org/2018/11/01/660671247/butterfly-preserve-on-the-border-threatened-by-trumps-wall
      #papillons

    • Wildlife advocates, local indigenous tribes protest preparations for new border wall construction

      The federal government this week began moving bulldozers and construction vehicles to the Texas border with Mexico to begin building a new six-mile section of border wall — the first new wall under President Donald Trump, administration officials confirmed Tuesday.

      The move immediately triggered angry protests by a local butterfly sanctuary — The National Butterfly Center — and local indigenous tribes who oppose the wall and say construction will damage natural habitats. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the wall will run through land owned by federal government. The dispute came amid an administration claim that a caravan of 2,000 migrants had arrived in northern Mexico along the Texas border.

      “We’re a recognized tribe and no one’s going to tell us who we are especially some idiots in Washington,” said Juan Mancias of the indigenous peoples’ tribe Carrizo-Comecrudo, who led protests on Monday. “We’re the original people of this land. We haven’t forgot our ancestors.”

      So far, the Trump administration has upgraded only existing fencing along the border. The president has called for some $5 billion for new wall construction, and Democrats have refused, resulting in a budget dispute that shut down the government for five weeks.

      This latest Texas project relies on previously appropriated money and won’t require further congressional approval. Construction plans for the Rio Grande Valley, just south of McAllen, Texas, call for six to 14 miles of new concrete wall topped with 18-foot vertical steel bars.

      Last year, Homeland Security Secretary Kristen Nielsen waived a variety environmental restrictions, including parts of the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts, to prepare for construction in the area. Construction on the Rio Grande Valley project is expected to start in the coming weeks.

      Marianna Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, remains a staunch advocate against the border wall. She met this week with authorities who she said wants to buy the center’s land for wall construction.

      She traveled to Washington last month to explain the environmental damage that would be caused by the construction in testimony on Capitol Hill.

      “The bulldozers will roll into the lower Rio Grande Valley wildlife conservation corridor, eliminating thousands of trees during spring nesting season for hundreds of species of migratory raptors and songbirds,” Wright told the House Natural Resources Committee.

      When asked by ABC News what message she has for people who aren’t there to see the impact of the new border wall, Wright paused, searching for words to express her frustration.

      “I would drive my truck over them, over their property, through their fence,” she said.

      DHS continues to cite national security concerns as the reason for building the border wall, with Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen saying in a statement Tuesday that migrants in the new caravan that had arrived at the Texas border would try to cross over illegally.

      “Such caravans are the result of Congress’s inexcusable failure to fully fund a needed physical barrier and unwillingness to fix outdated laws that act as an enormous magnet for illegal aliens,” Nielsen said in a statement.

      The last so-called caravan that caused alarm for the administration resulted in thousands of migrants taking shelter in the Mexican city of Tijuana. Just across the border from San Diego, many waited several weeks for the chance to enter the U.S.

      https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wildlife-advocates-local-indigenous-tribes-protest-preparations-border/story?id=60859814
      #résistance #peuples_autochtones #Carrizo-Comecrudo #McAllen #Texas

    • As Work Begins on Trump’s Border Wall, a Key Wildlife Refuge Is at Risk

      Construction is underway on a stretch of President Trump’s border wall cutting through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Biologists warn the steel wall will disrupt carefully preserved habitat critical for the survival of ocelot, jaguarundi, and other threatened species.

      As Tiffany Kersten descends from a levee into a verdant forest that stretches to the Rio Grande more than a mile away, she spots a bird skimming the treetops: a red-tailed hawk. Later, other birds — great blue herons, egrets — take flight from the edge of an oxbow lake. This subtropical woodland is one of the last remnants of tamaulipan brushland — a dense tangle of Texas ebony, mesquite, retama, and prickly pear whose U.S. range is now confined to scattered fragments in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. The ecosystem harbors an astonishing array of indigenous wildlife: ocelot, jaguarundi, Texas tortoise, and bobcat, as well as tropical and subtropical birds in a rainbow of colors, the blue bunting and green jay among them.

      But the stretch of tamaulipan scrub Kersten is exploring, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, won’t be around much longer. About 15 feet from the forest edge, Kersten — a board member of a local conservation group — spots red ribbons tied to tree branches on both sides of the trail. Soon, an excavator will uproot those trees to make way for a 140-foot-wide access road and an 18-foot-high wall atop the levee, all part of the Trump administration’s plan to barricade as much of the Texas/Mexico border as possible. On Valentine’s Day, two days before I visited the border, crews began clearing a path for the road, and soon the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will plant a cement foundation in the levee and top it with a steel bollard barrier.

      This construction is the first project under a plan to build 33 miles of new wall along the levee in South Texas, with $641 million in funding that Trump requested and Congress authorized last year. That 33-mile stretch, cutting through some of the most unique and endangered habitat in the United States, will be joined by an additional 55 miles of wall under a funding bill Trump signed February 15 that allocates another $1.375 billion for wall construction. The same day, Trump also issued a national emergency declaration authorizing another $6 billion for border walls. That declaration could give the administration the power to override a no-wall zone Congress created in three protected areas around the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

      Since the mid-20th century, ranches, oil fields, and housing tracts have consumed 97 percent of the tamaulipan brushland.

      Since the mid-20th century, ranches, farms, oil fields, subdivisions, and shopping centers have consumed 97 percent of the tamaulipan brushland habitat at ground zero of this new spate of border wall construction. That loss led Congress to create the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in the 1970s and spurred a 30-year-effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation organizations, and private landowners to protect the remaining pockets of tamaulipan brushland and restore some of what has been lost. The Fish and Wildlife Service has purchased 10,000 acres of cropland and converted it back into tamaulipan woodlands; it hopes to replant another 30,000 acres. The refuge, now totaling 98,000 acres, has been likened to a string of pearls, with connected jewels of old-growth and restored habitat adorning the 300-mile lower Rio Grande Valley.

      Into this carefully rebuilt wildlife corridor now comes the disruption of a flurry of new border wall construction. Scientists and conservationists across Texas warn that it could unravel decades of work to protect the tamaulipan brushland and the wildlife it harbors. “This is the only place in the world you can find this habitat,” says Kersten, a board member of Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, a non-profit group that works closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the corridor program. “And only 3 percent of this habitat is remaining.”

      For all its efforts to turn cropland into federally protected habitat, the Fish and Wildlife Service finds itself with little recourse to safeguard it, precisely because it is federal property. The easiest place for the federal government to begin its new wave of border wall construction is the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which includes the picturesque La Parida Banco tract, where I joined Kersten. Under a 2005 law, the Department of Homeland Security can waive the environmental reviews that federal agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service typically conduct for projects that could alter federally protected lands.

      The tract Kersten and I visited is one of four adjacent “pearls” in the wildlife corridor — long , roughly rectangular parcels stretching from an entrance road to the river. From west to east they are the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s La Parida Banco tract, the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, the refuge’s El Morillo Banco tract, and the privately owned National Butterfly Center. A levee runs through all four properties, and the first sections of fence to be built atop it would cut off access to trails and habitat in the refuge tracts. Citizens and local and state officials have successfully fought to keep the fence from crossing the National Butterfly Center, the Bentsen-Rio Grande state park, and the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge farther downstream — at least for now. If Trump’s national emergency declaration survives court challenges, the border barriers could even be extended into these holdouts.

      When the wall and access road are completed at La Parida Banco, a crucial piece of intact native habitat will become isolated between the wall and the river. Species that either rely on the river for water or migrate across it will find pathways they’ve traversed for thousands of years blocked.

      While biologists are concerned about the impacts of the wall all along the U.S.-Mexico border, the uniqueness of South Texas’ ecosystems make it an especially troublesome place to erect an 18-foot fence, they say. The 300-mile wildlife corridor in South Texas, where the temperate and the tropical intermingle, is home to an astounding concentration of flora and fauna: 17 threatened or endangered species, including the jaguarundi and ocelot; more than 530 species of birds; 330 butterfly species, about 40 percent of all those in the U.S.; and 1,200 types of plants. It’s one of the most biodiverse places on the continent.

      `There will be no concern for plants, endangered species [and] no consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service,’ says a biologist.

      “This is a dry land, and when you have dry land, your diversity is near the water,” says Norma Fowler, a biologist with the University of Texas at Austin who studies the tamaulipan brushland ecosystem. She co-authored an article published last year in the scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment warning of the consequences of the new wall for the region’s singular ecosystems and wildlife. Since the wall can’t be built in the river, it’s going up a mile or more north of it in some areas, placing both the riparian habitat right along the river and the tamaulipan thornscrub on higher ground at risk.

      “Both of those habitats have been fragmented, and there’s not much left,” Fowler says. “Some of it is lovingly restored from fields to the appropriate wild vegetation. But because they’ve waived every environmental law there is, there will be no concern for plants, endangered species. There will be no consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

      When the wall rises, the barrier and the new patrol road alongside it will cut an unusually wide 140-foot swath to improve visibility through the dense brush. In her article, Fowler estimated that construction of the border wall would destroy 4.8 to 7.3 acres of habitat per mile of barrier. The fence will also cut off access to the river and habitat on the Mexican side of the border for many animals. Including bobcats, ocelot, jaguarundi, and javelina. Some slower-moving species, like the Texas tortoise, could be caught in floods that would swell against the wall.

      If new walls must be built along the Rio Grande, Fowler says, the Department of Homeland Security should construct them in a way that causes the least harm to wildlife and plants. That would include limiting the footprint of the access roads and other infrastructure, designing barriers with gaps wide enough for animals to pass through, and using electronic sensors instead of physical barriers wherever possible.

      One of the most at-risk species is the ocelot, a small jaguar-like cat that historically roamed throughout Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Arizona, but that numbers only about 80 today. The sole breeding population left in the U.S. is in South Texas, and it is wholly dependent on the dense shrubland in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that the wall will bisect. Some species could be wiped out altogether: The few sites where Physaria thamnophila, a native wildflower, still grows are directly in the path of the wall, Fowler says.

      With 1,254 miles of border — all following the languid, meandering course of the Rio Grande — Texas has far more of the United States’ 1,933-mile southern boundary than any other state, yet it has the fewest miles of existing fence. That’s because much of the Texas border is private riverfront land. The first major push to barricade the Texas border, by the George W. Bush administration, encountered opposition from landowners who balked at what they saw as lowball purchase offers and the use of eminent domain to take their property. (Years later, some of those lawsuits are still pending.) Federal land managers also put up a fight.

      Natural areas already bisected by a Bush-era fence offer a preview of the potential fate of the Rio Grande wildlife refuge.

      When Ken Merritt — who oversaw the federal South Texas Refuge Complex, which includes the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Santa Ana, and the Laguna Atascosa refuge near where the Rio Grande meets the Gulf of Mexico — questioned the wisdom of a barrier through Santa Ana during the Bush administration, he was forced out of his job.

      “I was getting a lot of pressure,” says Merritt, who still lives in the valley and is retired. “But it just didn’t fit. We were trying to connect lands to create a whole corridor all along the valley, and we knew walls were very much against that.”

      Natural areas already bisected by the Bush-era fence offer a preview of the potential fate of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. A few miles downstream from the La Parida tract, the Hidalgo Pumphouse and Birding Center, which anchors the southern end of the tiny town of Hidalgo, now looks out at a stretch of steel bollard fence atop a concrete wall embedded in the levee.

      On a recent Monday morning, a few tourists milled about the gardens behind the pumphouse, listening to the birds — curve-billed thrashers, green monk parakeets, kiskadee flycatchers — and enjoying the view from the observation deck. Curious about the wall, all of them eventually walk up to it and peek through the four-inch gaps between the steel slats. On the other side lies another pearl: a 900-acre riverside piece of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge called the Hidalgo Bend tract. It was once a popular spot with birders drawn to its ferruginous Pygmy owls, elf owls, and other wildlife. But since the wall went up in 2009, few birders visit anymore.

      At The Nature Conservancy’s Sabal Palm Preserve, a 557-acre piece of the wildlife corridor near the Gulf of Mexico, a wall installed in 2009 cuts through one of the last stands of sabal palm forest in the Rio Grande Valley. Laura Huffman, regional director for The Nature Conservancy, worries that the more walls erected on the border, the less hope there is of completing the wildlife corridor.

      Kersten and others remain unconvinced that the danger on the border justifies a wall. She believes that sensors and more Border Patrol agents are more effective deterrents to drug smugglers and illegal immigrants. Earlier on the day we met, Kersten was part of a group of 100 or so protestors who marched from the parking lot at nearby Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park to the adjacent National Butterfly Center, holding signs that read “No Border Wall” and “Solidarity Across Borders.” One placard listed the more than two dozen environmental and cultural laws that the Trump administration waived to expedite the fence. Among them: the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental analysis before federal projects can begin; the Endangered Species Act; the Clean Water Act; the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act; the National Historic Preservation Act; and the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act.

      Even as the wall goes up in the refuge, preparations for this year’s restoration projects are moving ahead. Betty Perez, whose family has lived in the Lower Rio Grande Valley for generations, is one of several landowners who grow seedlings for replanting on refuge lands each year. At her ranch, about a 45-minute drive northwest of the La Parida Banco tract, she’s beginning to collect seeds to grow this year’s native shrub crop: coyotillo, in the buckthorn family; yucca; Texas persimmon.

      Next to a shed in her backyard sit rows of seedlings-to-be in white tubes. To Perez, the delicate green shoots hold a promise: In a few years, these tiny plants will become new habitat for jaguarundi, for ocelot, for green jays, for blue herons. Despite the new walls, the wildlife corridor project will go on, she says, in the spaces in between.

      https://e360.yale.edu/features/as-work-begins-on-trumps-border-wall-a-key-wildlife-refuge-is-at-risk