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President Trump's crusade to build an impenetrable wall between the U.S. and Mexico could condemn wildlife already on the brink of extinction.
But Congress can put a stop to Trump's fixation. Federal legislators have the power to deny funding for this disastrous roadblock to the survival of imperiled species. Funding the wall would destroy wildlife habitat and could be the end of the road for imperiled species like endangered Mexican gray wolves, ocelots and jaguars.
We must act now! Demand that Congress refuse to fund the border wall.
I am writing to urge you to oppose funding for any additional border wall or for conversion of vehicle barriers to border wall along our southern border. Walls harm wildlife, public lands and the people who live, work and recreate in the borderlands.
A border wall or other physical barrier already extends across nearly 700 miles of the 1,933-mile U.S.-Mexico border. New barrier construction will further harm a diversity of wildlife and vast expanses of pristine landscapes and waterways, including essential wildlife migration corridors. And in many places, such as the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the wall would have significant economic and social impacts.
The innumerable short- and long-term consequences of border barriers on wildlife include direct mortality; reduced populations; blockage of migration routes and corridors; loss of food, water, and shelter; habitat fragmentation; exacerbation of flooding; and impacts to the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, at least 89 endangered or threatened species and 108 migratory bird species could be affected by a wall and associated security activities along the border, including the Mexican gray wolf, jaguar, ocelot and Peninsular big horn sheep.
Some of the sensitive conservation lands along the U.S.-Mexico border are already lined with vehicle barriers - as opposed to pedestrian barriers - which prevent vehicle movement, but allow free passage for wildlife. Replacing vehicle barriers with pedestrian walls or fences would seal off these critical passages for wildlife like jaguar, ocelot, wolves, bison and bighorn sheep.
The proposed border wall could be constructed in and along many protected public lands and key habitats on the southern border. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the border wall would cut through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge as well as the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Wall construction through the Santa Ana Refuge, for example, could cut off all public access and threaten its significant economic benefits to local communities. The refuge is the centerpiece of ecotourism in the Valley, which generates an estimated $463 million in sustainable economic activity for the region annually.
In New Mexico, the proposed wall would bisect crucial wildlife corridors in Hidalgo County as well as across the Chiricahua Mountains on the border with Arizona. In Arizona, the wall could bisect protected landscapes, including Buenos Aires and Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuges, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and essential habitat in the Coronado National Forest. In California, the border wall threatens conservation lands including the congressionally-designated Otay Mountain Wilderness, as well as a vital wildlife corridor crossing Bureau of Land Management lands in Jacumba.
As with existing barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, additional construction can be exempted from all federal, state, or local laws by waivers under the under the REAL ID Act of 2005. The Bush administration used this authority five times and the Trump administration has already used it three times to waive more than 40 laws and federal safeguards, including the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Clean Air Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The ability to invoke these waivers only guarantees the destructive impact of wall construction.
I urge you to take all possible steps to stop this unnecessary harm to the wildlife, wild places and communities along the border by opposing new funding for border wall construction in any legislative vehicle.