One of Donald Trump’s first moves as President of the United States of America was to order the go-ahead to build his much-promised giant “wall” along the USA-Mexico border. It is a common meme among American conservatives that America’s southern border has not been protected nor respected. The promise of the wall was one of the things that helped propel Trump to the White House.
Conservatives often claim that there is a “legal process” for immigration and that that process should be followed. This claim is utterly ridiculous. There is essentially no viable process for unauthorized immigrants to enter the United States. The result is that by not having a compassionate, workable system we create “illegality” and a cruel reaction to our fellow human beings. Europe suffers from much the same problem. I wrote about this extensively last year.
Border fences also impact wildlife. In December 2016 I wrote about the impact of Europe’s border fences on wildlife for a publication of Yale University:
“This Balkan region, already threatened by the construction of highways and dams, is now being carved into increasingly constricted and less hospitable chunks by a new threat: border fencing. In the summer of 2015, as a flood of refugees from the Middle East and Africa streamed into Europe, Hungary closed its border. That left Slovenia as the main refugee conduit into Western Europe. Alarmed at the massive tide of migrants, Slovenia began building a razor-wire security fence along its 670-kilometer (416-mile) border with Croatia, giving little if any consideration of the environmental impacts on the wildlife. “
But the impact of border fences on wildlife is not limited to Europe. Trump’s proposed “great, great wall” will have a large negative impact on North America’s wildlife. A 2011 study pointed out that the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border already blocks 16 key species from about 75 percent of their habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has said that a fence proposed by President-elect Donald Trump would impact 111 endangered species and 108 migratory birds. This is an ecological disaster in the making.
When borders are militarized the habitat wildlife depends on is cut to pieces. Migration routes, access to food and water resources are destroyed. Access to suitable mates is likewise impacted. For decades scientists have been telling us just how bad this kind of fragmentation is for wildlife.
Jesse Lasky of Pennsylvania State University conducted a risk analysis for species along the border in 2011. He found dozens of species already at risk from the border as it currently exists. Three years later a study published in the journal PLOS1 looked at the way species moved along the border in Arizona under border barrier conditions and then without border fences. Unsurprisingly the study found that wildlife was much healthier along stretches of the border that were barrier-free.
Among the 111 species threatened by Trump’s wall you will find the Bald Eagle, Black Bear, the jaguar, the gray wolf and numerous hawks and owls. The impact of Trump’s wall on wildlife will be massive.
Our Endangered Species Act is also under attack. But as of this writing it is still the law of the land. Section 7 of the act requires that any construction project “permitted, funded, or licensed by any federal agency” must be reviewed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for its possible impact on endangered species in the project area. As far as I know, President Trump has not filed any such order or request to the USFWS for his wall and border fences.
Stay tuned. This is far from over.