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The proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico has been a hot news topic. It's a project of tremendous scope and long-lasting social and political repercussions with our third largest trade partner and one of our closest neighbors. Opponents of the proposal have highlighted the damage it could do to trade, families, and diplomatic relations; proponents have equally passionately defended the idea of using a wall to protect America from illegal immigrants.
Now, the wall is a step closer to becoming a reality, and we must take a closer look at the environmental damage such a structure could do.
The border between the U.S. and Mexico is an imaginary line running nearly 2,000 miles from California to Texas. Wildlife knows no boundary there, and ecosystems spread across it without regard for politics. This area includes sparsely populated desert, it's true. But it also includes some of the most biologically rich grasslands, montane woodlands and forests, and riparian habitats in the United States. The isolated Sky Island mountain ranges, the riparian habitats along the San Bernardino, San Pedro, and Santa Cruz rivers, and other ecologically unique places would be horribly affected not only by the existence of a wall, but the process of building it.
In order to build such a structure, materials, equipment, and manpower must be brought in all along the border. The new roads and traffic won't just disrupt habitat for the relatively short construction period; they will forever change it. Blocking the rivers crossing the border will cause flooding during regular seasonal rains and occasional big storms. Roadways will cut through large animal territories, send traffic through delicate ecosystems, and introduce non-native invasive species. We've seen this before: the unintentional introduction of bullfrogs, nonnative fish, harmful insects, and invasive weeds severely and irreversibly degrading ecosystems across the nation. A border wall would also block the movements of animals into our country along well-known corridors.
This is in addition to the impact a physical wall would have on the endangered species whose populations span our borders, such as the iconic jaguar, the Sonoran pronghorn, the elusive ocelot, and the Mexican wolf. Populations of these special animals would be genetically isolated from one another should a wall become reality, weakening the species. Six species of Mexican fishes in the Río Yaqui drainage are protected in the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona; four of them are Endangered species in the United States. Two jaguars crossed into the Dos Cabezas and Huachuca Mountains of Arizona in the last six months!
Tell the president and congressional leaders to protect our borderlands. The wall must not be built.
To President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority leader Chuck Schumer, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
The proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico has provided an opportunity to discuss popular political concerns, but there are sound scientific as well as social reasons that it should not be built. In addition to disrupting communities, breaking families, and being tremendously expensive, the wall is also a very real threat to rich but delicate ecosystems that stretch across the border, its construction and presence would damage these ecosystems irreversibly.
The Sky Island mountains in the Madrean Archipelago that straddles the border between Sonora and Arizona is a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot that provides food and shelter for countless migratory birds, and contains a remarkable intermingling of desert, temperate, and tropical species living in unique harmony - including the iconic jaguar and the endangered ocelot. The riparian wetlands where the Río Yaqui and San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers cross the border shelter host many species, including four endangered fishes protected in the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Arizona. The endangered Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope is now reduced to a few hundred animals in the hot, dry Sonoran Desert in southwestern Arizona and adjacent Sonora. Continued gene flow within this tiny population is crucial to its survival.
Construction of a wall through these habitats will necessitate new roads, and the movement of many workers, border guards, equipment, and materials. This will disrupt delicate habitat, genetically isolate threatened species, and create an entry point for damaging invasive species, forever altering the ecosystem in ways we can't repair.
Please reject the idea of expanding the wall on our border with Mexico. There are less harmful means of addressing the country's border concerns.