Trump’s plan to erect a wall along the US-Mexico border has most people outraged. Experts have proven that a wall is an inefficient way to deal with illegal immigration and the $20 billion price tag is astonishing. However, more than just humans are upset with Trump’s latest foolish plan. This time, his plan is going to impact wildlife as well. Countless species of animals and vegetation call the US-Mexico border home. Looks like they’ll have to find a new home, thanks to Trump.
History of the Wall
The history of a physical border between the United States and Mexico began long before Trump took office. In 2006, President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act which is responsible for most of the 700 miles of fence that currently runs along the 2000 mile border today. In 2005, the REAL ID Act allowed the Department of Homeland Security to build the border barrier without environmental review or regulatory law. As such, the disregard for the environment when it comes to building at the border has been a long standing tradition.
Unfortunately, Trump wants to take that one step further. Instead of just displacing some animals by increasing human development in the area, Trump is planning to completely destroy animal habitats and cause irreparable damage to ecosystems and species survival.
Trump first announced his plan to “build a great, great wall” in June 2015 when he announced his candidacy for president. Despite many economic, immigration, and environmental experts telling him otherwise, Trump is just as committed to the wall 18 months later. On Wednesday, January 25th, Trump signed an executive order commanding the Department of Homeland Security to begin building the wall with whatever funding is available. Congress will need to approve the release of additional funding in order to complete the wall. Trump has said the wall will cost between 10 and 12 billion dollars. But experts are quoting a cost closer to $20 billion.
What Species Are in Danger? Where Are They Located?
Species that live along the border include the Arroyo toad, black-spotted newt, jaguars, desert bighorn sheep, California red-legged frogs, jaguarundis (a small desert cat) and roadrunners. The Arroyo toad and black-spotted newt are already listed as endangered according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature. A wall along the border could permanently wipe out those species. Areas along that border that are home to many wildlife now in risk include the Texas Gulf, California coast, and the Madrean archipelago. The Madrean archipelago encompasses the mountain ranges and surrounding deserts and grasslands in Arizona, New Mexico, and Chihuahua, Mexico.
Why Are They in Danger?
One way these border animals are in danger is the threat of their habitat being split in two. Many natural habitats will be destroyed with the building of a wall as it will mean increased development and infrastructure that are likely to scare away animals and ruin their homes. The wall will also threaten genetic diversity. Many species cross over the US-Mexico border in order to hunt, mate and make their homes. By closing them off from their fellow species on the other side, gene flow is restricted which could lead to a decrease of population, inbreeding and other problems. Once these endangered species begin losing their homes and ultimately start disappearing, the entire ecosystem will likely be affected. If a predator, like the jaguar, is wiped out, the population of their prey, like deer and small pigs, will boom. This poses challenges for sustaining the increased populations with the current level of food, infringing on the habitat of other animals and a whole myriad of problems that can all be traced back to the wall.
Where Else is This Happening?
Unfortunately, Trump’s plan to build an "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall" on the US-Mexico border is not the first time a country has decided a wall would work better than diplomatic relations. It’s also not the first time that a wall has negatively impacted local wildlife.
A wall between Slovenia and Croatia has been erected to keep out refugees. As well as being a disgrace to humanity, this wall is hurting the gray wolves and Eurasian lynxes that live in the area. Both the gray wolves and Eurasian lynxes have already had their populations drop as a result of the wall. Experts say the brown bear that also calls the region home is likely to be the next species affected.
In southeastern Australia, a 3000 mile long fence was built in the 1950s. The purpose of this wall wasn’t to keep out refugees or immigrants but to protect sheep from wild dogs. While the fence did work to protect the sheep, it also protected kangaroos. The kangaroo population swelled and began to compete with the sheep for grass. Once again, the sheep were threatened. The impact of removing a species from the ecosystem is often the complete opposite of what we are hoping for. Hopefully someone can explain that to Trump and his team before it’s too late.