Wildlife and habitat are on the line because of impacts of the new administration’s immigration policy.
Today, President Trump ordered the construction of a Mexican border wall — the first in a series of steps intended to crack down on immigration and bolster national security. The executive order to finish the remaining 1,000 miles will have a huge impact on biological unity, connectivity along the border, and habitat disruption.
Spanning roughly 1,900 miles across the southwestern states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the U.S. and Mexico border has long since been a ￼￼topic of debate between conservation groups like Defenders of Wildlife and policymakers￼ that support extending the border wall. These public lands provide essential habitat for hundreds of wildlife species, including rare, threatened and endangered species such as the Mexican gray wolf and the elusive jaguar.
Since the early 1990s, U.S. Border Patrol has dramatically increased immigration enforcement from urban zones to more remote areas, and we have seen significant environmental degradation in some of the most pristine and valuable wildlife habitats in the nation.
Why You Should Care
While being constructed to stop people from illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, the border wall actually does more to prevent wildlife – not humans – from migrating and connecting with different populations across vast natural southwestern habitats.
Maintaining connected habitats is important for any species, but especially for those struggling to survive in the face of multiple and cumulative threats. For some species, the wall will completely block the corridors – or regularly traveled paths through the landscape – that they have relied on for centuries. If the wall fragments populations and prevents animals from reaching necessary habitat, these species are unlikely to remain healthy and contribute to their ecological landscapes. Imperiled species such as the ocelot, Mexican gray wolf, jaguar and Sonoran pronghorn may not be able to migrate, exchange genes between populations, and or reach vital food sources.
Is There An Alternative?
There are several scientific and conservation-minded solutions to extending the wall, including virtual fencing and wildlife-friendly vehicle barriers that are passable only to wildlife. There are also short-term measures that can be taken to support wildlife on America’s borders such as increased funding for environmental protection, improved environmental training for Border Patrol agents, and greater commitment to existing environmental laws.
We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our wildlife to secure America’s borders. Protection of the irreplaceable parks, refuges, forests and wilderness areas on the southern border – and the intricate web of life that depends on them – must become a central and fundamental consideration of border security.
As we continue to read over the Executive Order, stay tuned for new updates from Defenders of Wildlife about how the border wall will have an impact on the wildlife and landscapes we are working hard to protect.