Monday, October 1, 2007

Conservation Groups Appeal Construction of Arizona Border Wall

The Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife issued the following statement today regarding the construction of the border wall in sensitive habitat along Arizona's southern border.

Conservation Groups Ask Federal Government to Consider
Border Fence’s Overall Impact to Wildlife, Public Lands in Arizona

WASHINGTON – The government needs to look at the overall impacts of building walls along Arizona’s border before constructing additional segments, according to a formal appeal filed today by two national conservation groups. The joint appeal to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Department of the Interior asks that the government prohibit construction of a border wall within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (NCA) until it can comprehensively assess the environmental impacts on wildlife and protected federal lands in Arizona.

“The San Pedro National Conservation Area is an irreplaceable national treasure. Putting a fence right through the middle of it will rob America of one of its most important wildlife areas, but it won’t make America any safer,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife. “The decision to build a wall in this unique area points out the absurdity of the government’s ill-conceived approach to securing America’s borders. Meanwhile, the government isn't even considering the cumulative impacts of these wall segments on wildlife and habitat. They haven’t taken a step back to look at the whole picture—and right now that picture looks bleak.”

The appeal by Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club challenges the short-sighted decision to build a wall through the San Pedro NCA, which is one of the American Southwest’s most unique and biologically diverse areas. The San Pedro region has been designated as a World Heritage Natural Area by the United Nations World Heritage program. Some 250 species of migratory birds have been recorded in the area, which led to its designation as a Globally Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, and the international Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The San Pedro River is one of the last free-flowing rivers in the United States, and its natural beauty and diverse wildlife attract visitors from around the globe.

The appeal specifically challenges a BLM decision that permits construction of a wall and a new road within the San Pedro Riparian NCA. According to the BLM, the proposed fencing across the desert arroyos that feed the San Pedro River would cause erosion, sediment build-up and possibly even shift the entire riverbed. These changes could be disastrous for the cottonwood-willow woodlands and the wildlife that depend on this habitat. Construction of the wall could also physically isolate numerous wildlife species in Arizona that have populations in Mexico, including jaguar, ocelot, coati, gray and kit fox, badger, black bear, ringtail cat and unique subspecies of deer and squirrel.

The San Pedro wall is just one of six wall segments proposed since the beginning of the year along Arizona’s border with Mexico, including the San Pedro River, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Buenos Aires National Monument. At least two of these segments are already under construction. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, federal agencies are required to consider alternatives and review the cumulative environmental impacts of different federal actions that are occurring at the same time in the same area. Such comprehensive assessments are necessary to determine how best to minimize the impacts of border security measures on wildlife, wildlands and border communities.

On September 24, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would complete comprehensive Environmental Impact Statements concerning the cumulative impacts of planned border fence construction along much of the Texas border with Mexico. In Arizona, however, where construction on some segments of the fence has already begun, no such effort has been made.

“It’s an encouraging step in the right direction that the government has agreed to do a comprehensive assessment in Texas, but Arizona is the place where bulldozers are tearing up the borderland as we speak,” said Sean Sullivan, executive committee member for the Sierra Club Rincon (Southern Arizona) group. “Arizona’s border wall is already under construction in certain places, and the government has a responsibility to make sure its actions are thoroughly examined before it starts any new projects, especially in areas as sensitive as the San Pedro.”


thewallmovie said...

Hello we are working on a film about exactly this issue. or

Maybe we can talk, discuss some future filming.

Anonymous said...

America is going to hell in a handbasket and you're worried about the f#*%ing wildlife?


You seem to have missed a key point here, anonymous - this is not a trade-off, where we sacrifice wildlife and in return get security. The wall kills wildlife and drives endangered species to extinction, and in return we get NO BENEFIT. The border wall will not stop anyone. The walls built so far have not stopped anyone. In San Diego they have had a border wall for a decade. In 2007 crossings in San Diego were up by 7% according to the Border Patrol. During that same time crossings in the Rio Grande Valley, where there is no wall, dropped by 34%. In wall-free Del Rio they dropped by 45%. So clearly, in exchange for the loss of wildlife, San Diego's handbasket did not descend any slower.