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A Species Of Fence Opponent

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Mother Jones –yes, Mother Jones– has a long article on species extinction, “Gone.” Buried deep in the piece is an early warning to border fence proponents of a likely challenge to the fence:

The Wildlands Project has also identified the five most critically endangered wildlife linkages along the spine, each associated with a keystone species. Grizzlies in the lower 48, already pinched at Crowsnest Pass on Highway 3 between Alberta and British Columbia, will be entirely cut off from the bigger gene pool to the north if a larger road is built. Greater sage grouse, Canada lynx, black bears, and jaguars face their own lethal obstacles farther south.

But by far the most endangered wildlife linkage is the borderlands between the United States and Mexico. The Sky Islands straddle this boundary, and some of North America’s most threatened wildlife-jaguars, bison, Sonoran pronghorn, Mexican wolves-cross, or need to cross, here in the course of their life travels. Unfortunately for wildlife, Mexican workers cross here too. Of late, Vacariu says, these immigrants have been traveling up the Chiricahuas. Men, women, and children, running at night, one-gallon water jugs in hand.

The problem for wildlife is not so much the intrusions of illegal Mexican workers but the 700-mile border fence proposed to keep them out. From an ecological perspective, it will sever the spine at the lumbar, paralyzing the lower continent.

Here, in a nutshell, is all that’s wrong with our treatment of nature. Amid all the moral, practical, and legal issues with the border fence, the biological catastrophe has barely been noted. As if extinction is not contagious and we won’t catch it.

Vacariu and I drive to Douglas, Arizona, just south of the Chiricahuas. There’s already an older border fence here, a hodgepodge of Marine Corps steel landing ramps, concertina wire, and steel beams, all scrappily patched and welded, burrowed under in places, then reinforced with dirt piles that look like cat scratchings. Here and there doors are cut through. Elsewhere, stark white crosses stand as markers of someone’s death. Every quarter mile or so, we encounter a lone Border Patrol officer napping in his suv.

We drive the American side along a dirt road. The fence has been upgraded with motion detectors and floodlighting fit for a gulag. Lights are as much an abrasive to biodiversity as a road or a fence, blinding amphibians, disorienting birds, and disrupting the hunting behaviors of carnivores from snakes to coyotes. We motor to the end of the wall, to the Chiricahuas’ eastern Sky Island neighbor, the Peloncillo Range. To the east, the border is marked only by a barbed-wire livestock fence.

Read the whole thing. 


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