On the Fence?

By: Lisa Coleman

Talking about a border fence doesn’t usually make popular dinner conversation… but, you’re going to be hearing more and more about this rather ridiculous idea. It is certainly fair to say that immigration (and all that it entails) is a tremendous problem, but a fence isn’t going to help matters. To quote my dear opinionated friend, David Simmonds, “This isn’t an illegal immigrant problem, it is an illegal employer problem.”  It’s sort of like everyone pointing the finger at Mexico for the US drug problem…. it’s just simple economics, supply and demand. Same thing works with the illegals. If we keep employing them, they will keep coming.

Nonetheless, the politicos in Washington think a fence will magically do the trick. This ten foot bandaid will only make matters worse, and everyone seems to be forgetting the collateral damage to this preposterous plan. The environment also has a stake in this game and the implications are devastating. An outfit known as the Borderlands Jaguar Detection project has kept cameras in a remote wilderness area near the Arizona-Mexico border since 2004. Their goal has been to study the Jaguar population that is making it’s way into the mountain wildlife corridors that straddle the border. These amazing creatures are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and are looking to become the unintentional victims if the Department of Homeland Security pushes forward.

This month, an 11-km steel fence has been errected through the Tumacacori mountains in Arizona’s Buenos Aires national wildlife refuge which directly affect the habitat of the endangered pronghorn antelope. “It is very close to where one jaguar has been known to live for at least 10 years,” says Michael Robinson, who monitors jaguars for the Centre for Biological Diversity (CBD). Cutting the animals off from Mexico “is potentially catastrophic for the species’ recovery prospects in the northern part of its range.” The American Society of Mammalogists warns that jaguars can survive only if they are allowed to roam across the border. Steel fences would strand existing jaguars in the U.S., prevent others from increasing the nascent population, and limit the cat’s gene pool.

In Texas, the same problems are surfacing. A 110-km fence proposal would run near the Lower Rio Grande Valley national wildlife refuge. Restored for $100 million, it is North America’s most biologically diverse area, home to rare ocelots and half of U.S. bird species. “We estimate anywhere from 60 per cent to 75 per cent of the refuge will be either directly or indirectly impacted,” says Nancy Brown, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a bureau of the Department of the Interior. According to published information on the topic, the fence could harm a $150 million-a-year ecotourism trade.

Not surprising, this fence project could bring is worth about $7.6 billion, a windfall to contractors. The sheer numbers seem to blur the logic of the hungry businessman and political climber. In a recent statement, Mexico’s Environmental Minister Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada said the fence threatened shared ecosystems. Warning that Mexico might take the issue to the International Court of Justice, he advocated “green corridors,” without roads, for wildlife — a vision already entertained by various schemes. But George baby and his idiotic  Department of Homeland Security are ready to build that fence to prove some sort point which will only serve pertuate the folly of his presidency. Though Bush will be gone none too soon, it might be too late for the Jaguar and rest of the wildlife and ecosystems that happen to be in the way.