Thursday, April 10, 2008

More on Texas Border Wall

Prompted by some good discussion I've read on TexBirds and elsewhere: I want to stress the point that the danger to birds is not so much the height of the wall, but more the wide swath of habitat that would be cleared for the wall and service roads. Chachalacas, Pygmy Owls, Green Jays, etc will fly over a wall, but they're less likely to cross 100 yards of barren gravel. This project might as well be a 4-lane highway.

So let's try to take immigration completely out of the picture for a moment and imagine that, instead of a wall, the federal government was proposing to build a 4-lane expressway along the river from Brownsville to Laredo. Wouldn't there be a unified grassroots uprising against it? What if they revealed that it would cut right through parts of the LRGV Wildlife Corridor, which has been so carefully patched together and cultivated over the last 20+ years? And what if there would be no exit or overpass anywhere near the Sabal Palm sanctuary and other sites, effectively cutting those places off from the existing road system? And, on top of all that, what if they announced that, in order to speed construction, all environmental review would be waived? Wouldn't we all be outraged?

People may feel conflicted or uncommitted about the border wall because it is tangled up in hot-button issues of immigration and National Security. But those issues are irrelevant to the birds. The reality is that the wall (like an expressway) would be catastrophic for birds and birding in the valley (and what's bad for birding is generally bad for the birds), and we need to speak out to demand that those concerns be addressed. Congress allowed all this to happen, and they can change it, but they need to hear from lots of us. See


heidi said...

Thank you SO much for mentioning this! Every time I'm asked "well, don't birds fly?" in regards to the wall, I kind of want to cry - the wall isn't just one little chain link fence in the middle of a forest, it's going to force any creature that crosses out into the open where they're more vulnerable to predators. Simple habitat logic, same reason folks need cover near their bird feeders.

Anonymous said...

Look at the maps on the EIS. (I misplaced the link...I'll keep trying to find it). But this wall doesn't go along the border, it goes significantly north of the border, effectively cutting off major birding locations and habitat from the citizens of the US. This is just plain wrong and stupid and another giveaway to the contractors that will get richer from this LAME administration.

Anonymous said...

>>>But those issues (immigration) are irrelevant to the birds.<<<<

Your wrong. ~ 12 million people have come into the USA illegally since the last "amenesty" that was proceeded by several million more illegals.

Each of these illegals needed US living space and had a US resources footprint and infrastructure impact of ~ 5 acres or more/ea.

12kk people times 5 acres means 60 million acres of US bird habitat were impacted to completely destroyed by these illegals. Assuming a 420 foot wide swath for 500 miles of border fence gives 25,000 acres.

Yes the fence will not stop all illegals but recent border actions have slowed the flow considerably. After a fence it will be slowed further.

Do not dismiss up to 60 million US acres that WILL be saved if we stop the next 12KK million illegals by making illogical statements like >>>But those issues (illegal immigration) are irrelevant to the birds.<<<<

Imagine dismissing the impact of 12 million people in the US? Imagine the collective outrage and destruction via building of schools, houses, roads and strip malls of 100,000 projects each affecting 600 acres. What 600 acres in your neighborhood to you want destroyed to make room for the next 12 million illegals?

Also imagine the impact on taxes and govt infrastructure amounting to billions of dollars. Do you think available conservation funds provided by the govt is affected by these expenditures?

If the few million on the Ivory-billed was such a problem to you and others than can we imagine several billion dollars could cause some incidental pressure on the funding for various extant species?

tks Fred Vir.

Anonymous said...

Steve's comments are partially true as far as access. Unfortunately US birders may lose easy entry (you can still get there) to some nice areas that will be cut off but this is not the fault of the US govt which is just reacting to the symptoms.

The Mexican govt, illegals, US businesses and all US citizens have in some ways caused illegal immigration.

The drug cartels, gangs, dealers, Osama BL and the Mexican govt aren't exactly cooperating on where to best place the wall from a conservation centric perspective or in even wanting a wall which is antithetical to their illegal designs.

I believe a fence could be engineered with conservation input that allows herptiles and small animals passage at ground level.

But tunneling and breaching the wall by various criminals will make the engineering costly I assume.

Remember that there are US citizens that worry and complain sometimes rightly about expenditures of anything so as wall costs go up we have people like Steve yelling this and that about contractor corruption or waste.

Steve is on the borderline of being inconsistent: Complaining about wall construction corruption but in need of some advanced engineering and more serpentine and expensive placement of the wall.

Inconsistent stances or unwillingness to engage the govt in putting up a wall that many (most?) Americans think is needed potentially leads to a less "animal-friendly" wall since we have no invited seat to comment on the construction. We need the invite because yes, the environmental safeguards for less urgent construction have been waved.

Fred Vir.

>>Look at the maps on the EIS. (I misplaced the link...I'll keep trying to find it). But this wall doesn't go along the border, it goes significantly north of the border, effectively cutting off major birding locations and habitat from the citizens of the US. This is just plain wrong and stupid and another giveaway to the contractors that will get richer from this LAME administration.<<<

David Sibley said...

Fred, I don't have time to respond fully, but I strongly disagree with your suggestion that we should accept the evils of the border wall because it will indirectly prevent other environmental damage. Your calculations are exaggerated - there is no way the average "illegal" immigrant has a footprint of five acres each (they mostly live very frugally in urban areas). Besides, the "illegal" immigrants have come here to do necessary jobs (so we'll still have to find 12 million people somewhere to do that work) and people have an environmental impact wherever they live, so keeping a few million out of the US simply shifts their impact somewhere else.

And I'm very uncomfortable with the population control implied in your comments. If you are really concerned about how much environmental damage is done by an increasing US population you should build a wall to keep out the biggest consumers - middle-class suburbanites!

Or we could just steer everyone towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Development will happen, the human population will increase, strip malls will be built, etc. Hopefully those can be lawfully planned and built in more sustainable and environmentally sensitive ways. What matters right now is that this wall is being bulldozed through sensitive habitat, and our Government has explicitly waived ALL environmental laws. There has to be a better way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for more great information on this. As with all of your posts I always learn quite a bit!

Anonymous said...

I was reading yesterday the blog of No Border, thanks for the information, but I cannot understand that only about 2000 people have signed the No Border Wall petition.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I agree a better way must exist and that starts with the source of the problem---- influencing/forcing countries to recognize human population problems rather than exporting their poor to send money back to the natal country. “However, lack of political will, insufficient investments in modern agriculture, and a general apathy to the tenets of sustainable land management threaten food security in Third World countries and in some, contribute to poverty and famine.” (Eswaran et al.)

Ignoring the impact of 12 million people on the bread basket of the world, the USA, is quite a dangerous concept for global food production stability. These 12 million people soon have families that are then 24 million strong and who gradually move up the economic ladder like all immigrant classes that have come to the USA.

Paving over good ag land as we have in the NE will haunt the world just as the impermeable footprint of more and more illegals will. Most of the 15 million hectares needed yearly to replace lost land is coming from the world's forests (Houghton, 1994; WRI, 1996). The urgent need for more agricultural land accounts for more than 60% of the deforestation now occurring worldwide (Myers, 1990).

Dave you said “(they mostly live very frugally in urban areas)”. This characterization of stagnant immigrant economic and geographic mobility is not supported by anything in the “American Experience”. We are talking about an entity, bird populations, that must survive the first, second, third generation, etc. born to those who began their stay by cutting the line in front of the millions who are let in legally. The more people we allowed/will allow in the 20 and 21st century because of no strict border clamp down will directly affect the US avifauna.

I specifically attempted to frame comments on impacts to the US environment and US birds because of the inherent complexity of the global socioeconomic implications you have now brought to the table. You started the thread with the direct and assumed correct conclusion that the TX wall will destroy up to 25,000 acres in the US but then you ignored the impact of 12,000,000 illegals coming into the US. This was an unfair framing of the US impact. You then obfuscated my point by saying the 5 acres per person presented was “an exaggeration” without giving any acre data per capita. Five acres per person is easily found in the literature.

It’s a moot point as you realize since the schools, food production, roads, housing, stores, place to work, churches etc. to support 12 million people AND THEIR eventual legal offspring will add up to many millions of US acres…much more than the 25,000 destroyed by the wall. What is your acre figure per illegal alien since you left it out?

If you must move this away from just the US impacts then let’s also look at basic population dynamics.
Populations will spread themselves out as quickly as possible in the available habitat if allowed. China had to face this with their one child policy; without this policy things would be even worse globally. Costa Rica had, in their minds, to stop the Nicas from coming in. Mexico also treats illegal immigrants very severely. Mexico is blessed to be able to abuse the US taxpayer, environment and resources; they have done a good job at it with the govt even producing pamphlets about how to safely cross into the USA. Yes we all looked the other way because food was cheap and we are too short sighted to see the cost of the externalities which include a dysfunctional Mexico, our eternal neighbor, barring continental drift.

We must stop the process that is enabling both countries to be populated as rapidly as possible to the detriment of the human quality of life and incidentally bird populations.

The wall is one sad but necessary step towards a hopefully multifaceted thrust to finally forcing ATTEMPTS at improving things in CenAm and Mex which will directly affect the hemispheres avifauna. Enabling one country to export humans at an uncontrolled pace with no barriers is a sure fire way to destroy both countries avifauna as quickly as possible.

The acquiescence that there should be no physical barriers to illegal immigration is a free border stance and a defeatist attitude portraying that we will continue to allow the most prolific reproducing and ill-run parts of the world to disperse their systemic abuses to the bread basket of the world and globe. This will occur as rapidly as possible to any misguided govt/society that will allow it. A free border is antithetical to open space preservation.

Demagoging, “no wall” as some way to save net overall acres for birds in the US or the world is a total fallacy. Limits to sustainable human population and forcing govts. to face their own geo-political problems, with our help as able, rather than allow them to export them is the only long term solution for declining bird populations.

Tks Fred V.