Guest Opinion: Border wall will hinder nature, but not peopleby Michael Finkelstein on Aug. 10, 2006, under Opinion
It’s a sad time for America. In 1987, President Reagan stood before the Berlin Wall and stated, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
But less than 20 years later, President Bush and Congress are moving to build a new Berlin Wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
This massive triple wall on 370 miles of the border would create a colossal environmental disaster.
Walls will block wildlife movement corridors and severely harm natural landscapes and rivers along our fragile southern border.
The only living things the walls won’t stop are people.
It’s a moral low point for America when our government moves to destroy nature and wall us off from a friendly neighbor.
The distance of the triple wall – 370 miles – is approximately the distance of the entire border in Arizona.
More border walls and militarization will be a giant hit to endangered species and habitat, such as the cactus pygmy owl and Sonoran pronghorn in Arizona; flat-tailed horned lizard and peninsular ranges bighorn sheep in California; jaguar and Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico; and the Rio Grande River, ocelot and Big Bend National Park in Texas.
Endangered species need to cross their borderland habitat often, and triple walls will crush their ability to survive and recover.
As federal enforcement intensifies, a key focus should be wildlife-friendly vehicle barriers in strategic and at-risk places on the border, such as the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Goldwater Range, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and Coronado National Forest.
In a more reasonable move, the Senate also approved 461 miles of vehicle barriers, but it is not known if a wildlife- friendly design will be used.
Once the vehicle barriers are in place, agents should patrol in trucks only on roads right on the border or outside designated wilderness areas, and elsewhere on horse or foot.
A wildlife-friendly vehicle barrier at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona has proven effective at stopping smuggling vehicles from entering the U.S.
However, the Border Patrol is still driving off-road in wilderness areas where vehicles are prohibited, destroying fragile desert habitat and running down wildlife and pedestrian immigrants with “humvees,” trucks and off-road vehicles.
Our Congress and president must stop pushing fear and start listening to experienced borderland leaders such as U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will help solve the root causes of illegal immigration.
Desperate migrants who are willing to die to cross into the U.S. for work will not be stopped by walls and more border militarization.
But nature’s web-of-life and our important relationship with Mexico would be severely hurt.
America can and must act humanely and do better.
Michael Finkelstein is executive director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.