SANTA ANA NWR UPDATE
Things are not getting any better in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge “Wall” controversy. For more background can see our previous reports from August, 2017at
and September, 2017
The Department of Homeland Security has recently announced that the first new section of the proposed border wall at the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) in South Texas will be at the refuge, specifically built on the well-known levee by the north end of the refuge.
The proposed 2.9-mile section of wall at Santa Ana NWR would be constructed in a 10-mile gap in the existing barrier. The new wall would be a 30-foot tall concrete base with an additional 18 feet of steel bollard fence atop it. Additionally, there would be a 150-foot “enforcement zone” stripped of vegetation next to and south of the wall. This zone would include a road and surveillance towers with floodlighting.
There would be no wall at either end of this construction. At least for the time-being, this new section of wall would simply be a barrier to walk around!
The Santa Ana wall section is estimated to cost $45 million – approximately $15 million per mile – and is slated to be completed by July 2019, according to Army Corps of Engineers records published in the Texas Observer and described in a highly revealing and recommended investigative article by Melissa del Bosque:
It is still uncertain what this construction would mean for access to the refuge once the barrier is completed.
Santa Ana NWR has been long been a regular “Mecca” for birders and a place where unique “South Texas specialties” are regularly found. Santa Ana was created in 1943 to protect migratory birds, and 94.9% of its property was acquired through Duck-Stamp/MBCF dollars. Some 400 bird species have been observed at Santa Ana, and many other wildlife species including rare mammals, herps, and butterflies call the area home.
Elsewhere in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the National Butterfly Center, a non-profit sanctuary and wildlife center, recently filed a lawsuit in Washington D.C. against the Department of Homeland Security demanding that the Trump administration conduct federally required environmental assessments and follow the constitution and legal due process before attempting to build a border wall through their 100-acre private nature and wildlife sanctuary.
According to the documents recently obtained, the wall would cut through other valuable nearby habitats and properties, such as the much-beloved Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.
Local communities in the LRGV continue to line up in opposition to the wall. Fortunately, there is still time to halt this monstrosity, including other ways to set up smart and more wildlife-friendly fences, replete with technologically advanced sensing (e.g., listening and viewing) devices. Congress can act, as long as members hear from their constituents. Readers concerned about this situation can access a model letter provided last summer by the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and re-write sections with their own words to reflect the current situation:
This article has been re-produced from the latest issue of the Birding Community E-Bulletin.