Since he stepped into the Oval Office, there have been rumblings about President Donald Trump’s proposed construction of a wall along the Texas-Mexico border. Who would pay for it has been an especially contentious point. But over the past few months, those rumblings have erupted into an outright explosion after news broke that the administration has begun preparations to begin construction in South Texas. More specifically, on the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge.
The story first broke when the executive director of the National Butterfly Center — a 100-acre center that’s part of the Rio Grande Valley wildlife corridor — found workers taking soil samples and marking spots for clearing land. She soon realized the men had been contracted by, of all entities, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). She was stunned. Sadly, her discovery only served as foreshadowing for more to come.
It gets much worse. Since then, reports have confirmed that the larger area being targeted for the wall’s rapidly approaching construction — as early as January, according to some — is the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge. A federally owned sanctuary along the border, Santa Ana spans over 2,000 acres and is often referred to as the “crown jewel of the national wildlife refuge system.” It’s also one of the top birding destinations thanks to the over 400 species of birds and 450 species of plants who have called it home since 1943. And just like that, it all could be wiped away.
Let’s get specific: CBP claims they are still in the planning phase, but reports citing federal officials say otherwise. If they’re right, then construction on an 18-foot tall, three mile long levee wall could begin in less than six months. From there, a road will be built south of the wall and land on either side of the wall will be cleared for surveillance, towers, and cameras. Should this happen, the Santa Ana Refuge will be gutted — a blow that will have immediate ramifications. By carving up, clearing out, and splintering this refuge for the wall, irreplaceable ecosystems will be destroyed. Thousands of land-based migratory animals will be stranded and unable to pass through to sought-after lands, their territory cut in two. Vital, native plant species will be reduced to rubble.
Let’s call a spade a spade: the feds are building on wildlife refuges first because they own the land. But estimates say that over 90% of the over 1,200 miles of Texas borderlands are privately owned, meaning federal officials will need landowner approval to touch them. So even if CPB and the government follows through with this Santa Ana plan, it’ll only be a drop in the bucket. When you take this into account, it’s clear how senseless — and borderline insane — it is to take such a drastic step right out of the gate. It’s obvious this has become more about scoring cheap political points with constituents than looking out for America’s safety. But we’re not giving in without a fight.
Around here, we have a saying: “Don’t mess with Texas.” If this dangerous, negligent plan isn’t doing that, I’m not sure what is. That’s why I’m asking you to step back and ask yourself: is this what represents our country? If your answer is no, then don’t sit idly. Call your legislators. Call the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Take action and make sure our state’s natural beauty isn’t destroyed for a few extra miles of unfinished border wall.
And the next time you hear our president say he’s going to make Mexico or anyone else pay for the wall, think again — our wildlife and homeland will.