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We Wall Ourselves Off: Response to Pentagon Allocating $1 billion for Border Fencing

On Tuesday, the Department of Defense, in response to a directive issued by President Trump, announced that it was transferring $1 billion U.S. dollars to build Trump’s unnecessary and destructive border wall.

Wildlands Network strongly opposes the construction of a border wall. The building of such a structure in southern Arizona and New Mexico would be an ecological disaster with far reaching implications for numerous important wildlife species that residents of the Southwest and beyond hold close and dear.

If we build a wall, then we essentially wall off ourselves and deprive future generations, both human and wild, of their heritage, destroying an important part of what it means to be an Arizonan.

For example, in western Arizona, the Barry Goldwater Range, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe National Monument, as well as the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve in Sonora, Mexico all harbor the skittish and sparsely populated Sonoran Pronghorn (sometimes called antelope) who runs back and forth across the border in search of forage that crops up from the highly variable rainfall that is the norm in the Sonoran desert. Building a wall flies in the face of binational efforts to save the Sonoran Pronghorn, which reached a population low of just 21 in 2002. Numbers in Mexico and the U.S. hover at about 1,000 now, but a border wall could drive the second fastest land animal on Earth to extinction.

The border wall will have disastrous effects on the Sonoran Pronghorn, an iconic species of the American Southwest and Borderlands who calls both Mexico and the U.S. home. Photo: Tom Koerner, USFWS

But it is not just the rare and charismatic animals that would be affected. Black bear, mule deer, and whitetail deer would suffer from a lack of connectivity, effectively cutting their populations in half. Wildlife corridors are not a one-way street. The Sonoran Mule Deer could become a thing of the past, along with the smaller but highly sought-after Coues Whitetail Deer. Sportsmen from across the state and all over the world flock to southern Arizona and northern Sonora in search of the famed world record “muleys” and other wild game that make Arizona a go-to spot for hunters. Concerned sportsmen would be wise in opposing border barriers that will fragment the wilderness and disrupt their passion, leaving them empty-handed following the hunt.

The impact of a border wall on the mountains and grasslands of southeastern Arizona and the Bootheel of New Mexico cannot be underestimated. Jaguar and ocelot both inhabit the Sky Island mountain ranges of the region, and a border wall would most certainly preclude these majestic creatures from recolonizing their former range in the U.S.

Map showing the current range of the Sonoran Pronghorn, who ranges across the border in search of food, mates, water, and shelter. Map: Juan Carlos Bravo, Wildlands Network

The border wall debate and issues of immigration are political battles that have divided Americans largely based upon opinions, fear, and deliberate misinformation. What is not opinion is the effect that a border wall will have upon our natural world. In July 2018, 2,500 scientists from 43 countries signed on to a scientific paper that outlined the deleterious effects of a U.S.-Mexico border wall (this scientist being one of them).

For tens of thousands of years, animals have migrated north and south across the place we now call the Borderlands. Humans and wildlife have grown and evolved economies, cultures, and lifestyles around this landscape that is exceptionally high in natural value. If we build a wall, then we essentially wall off ourselves and deprive future generations, both human and wild, of their heritage, destroying an important part of what it means to be an Arizonan.

To learn more about how border fencing will disastrously affect certain species, including pronghorn, read our “Four Species on the Brink” report.

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