Image credit: tiburi | Pixabay
For more than a month, the news has been dominated by the longest USA government shutdown in history. What sparked the shutdown was the lack of funding for Trump's border wall with Mexico, one of his signature campaign pledges. The main reason for the construction of a wall is to prevent illegal immigrants and drug smugglers from Mexico entering the USA as easily as they currently can.
This border is not only an important pathway used by people, but by wildlife too. In US law the Endangered Species Act requires any construction project "permitted, funded, or licensed by any federal agency" to be reviewed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in order to assess its impacts on endangered species. We have similar laws here in the UK that help protect the habitats of animals such as newts, bats and badgers.
There are more than 650 miles of permanent barriers that already exist along the border, Trump's wall would see the length of these triple. The barriers that are already in place cut through sensitive ecosystems and prevent species migration patterns, so there is already some evidence to draw upon. The US Fish and Wildlife Service predict that the construction will directly impact 111 endangered species and 108 species of migratory bird. Habitats are also at risk including four wildlife refuges including the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and worringly, an unknown number of protected wetlands. All of this could tip some species over the edge and lead to extinctions.
Due to a quirk in US legislation, the Secretary of Homeland Security can waive any federal, state or local protections for the environment to allow such barriers as Trump's proposed wall. The jaguar is one of the may species that could be affected by the wall, as well as loss of protection during its construction. There is only one male jaguar known to inhabit the USA, with the construction of a wall it would certainly spell an end to their existence in the United States.
The constructin of a wall to keep out illegal immigrants will also divide a vital corridor used by a plethora of species. From wolves to butterflies and even the USA's national animal, the bald eagle. There will also be a loss of jobs and the income nature tourism along the border creates, eroding the rich national heritage of on of the most biodiverse areas in North America.