Not a Wonder Wall
Audubon Texas ask Federal Government to Think Again…Audubon Texas cannot support the proposed construction along the Rio Grande of a border barrier of the scale that has been described in preliminary reports. While we share public concerns about border security, the construction of such a barrier will have disastrous unintended consequences for wildlife, nature-based tourism and community education efforts.
Because the proposed barrier cannot be built on the actual international border in the middle of the River, it is being proposed to build it through public and private land on the north side, sometimes more than a mile from the River. This will leave thousands of acres of U.S. land cut off creating a ‘No Man’s Land’ trapping people, wildlife and community interests between the Rio Grande and what amounts to a new border.
Audubon believes that measures such as vehicle barriers, modern remote-surveillance technology, and expanded staffing for the Border Patrol, should be explored before undertaking the construction of a physical barrier of this scale. With careful planning and site evaluation, the United States can protect both its border the natural resources and value of this unique area. Damage to the environment and wildlife:
The proposed barrier will eviscerate all the gains in habitat protection and restoration along the Lower Rio Grande Valley corridor that have been achieved over 30 years through more than $100 million in taxpayer investments and the conservation work of state and federal governmental agencies, non-profits and private citizens.
The proposed segments will destroy thorn scrub habitat, fragment native brush stands, and block the vital movement of native animals along existing corridors, with detrimental effects that will be felt across Texas: Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge
When the project began in 1979, 95% of the lower Rio Grande valley’s unique habitat had been eliminated. Today this is one of the Nation’s most successful habitat restoration efforts, managing 88,044 acres and is authorized up to 132,500 additional acres in Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo and Starr Counties of South Texas. The protected lands of the Refuge are among the most bio-diverse in the continental United States.
The proposed barrier would undo the many of the benefits of the $100 million refuge investment. Parcels will be severed by the barrier, leaving large potions south of the barrier and effectively cut off from those to the north. This will result in serious, and irreparable, wildlife and habitat loss and damage. Associated Habitat Protected by Conservation Groups
This critically important South Texas habitat is also made tracts linked to the refuge by river corridor and protected by conservation groups.
The Nature Conservancy of Texas protects more than 1,000 acres and has nearly two miles of frontage along the Rio Grande at The Lennox Foundation South most Preserve. Its holdings will be severed by the barrier, leaving most of the land on the south side.
Audubon’s Sabal Palm Audubon is home to one of the only two remaining large stands of native sabal palms in the United States- the other is found at the South most Preserve. The Center is comprised of 557- acres within an area that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has classified as a Tier I – High Priority Ecoregion. Its land and waters provide habitat for ocelots, indigo snakes, Texas tortoises and an amazing array of birds. Audubon’s entire property will be below the barrier. Damage to Tourism and the Economy:
The proposed barrier will damage critical economic drivers for a region that urgently needs them, cutting off vital tourist areas and cutting property values. With per-capita income well blow that of the nation and other parts of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley cannot afford the costs a barrier would force it to absorb.
br>The spectacular diversity of wildlife in the Valley has led to recognition of the area as a major ecotourism destination, producing $125 million a year for the local economy. In fact, bird watching alone accounts for approximately one-fourth of the multi-billion dollar ecotourism industry in Texas (source: U.S. Department of the Interior). The barrier will block or severely restrict access to most of these places that make these revenues possible.
Diminished private land values
Hundreds of private landowners, including Audubon Texas and The Nature Conservancy of Texas, own land south of the proposed barrier. The cumulative value of this private land is enormous and will be severely decreased when it is cut off by the barrier. The federal government intends to deny any compensation to landowners south of the barrier. Damage to community education and recreation:
Residents of the valley—and people from across the country—stand to lose a vital important place to discover and connect with nature if the Sabal Palm Audubon Center is cut off and orphaned on the south side of the barrier and forced to close. There is no other similar facility or program available to replace what the center brings to the community.
5,000 children and families
The Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary was established in 1971 with a commitment to provide local schools with unique field based educational opportunities and introduce the community to the rich biodiversity found in the Valley. Some 3,000 children from the Brownsville community, plus many other adults and families, now have access to education programs at the center. They are among the poorest in the nation, yet currently have-access to a world-class nature education experience. They will be deprived of this unique resource if the barrier is built
Loss to other visitors
Sabal Palm Audubon Center is known around the world as a destination for birders, and has been designated a Global Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. It attracts visitors from far and wide, contributing $6.9M annually to the Brownsville economy. But the wildlife people come to see depend on the unbroken vegetated migratory corridors on both sides of the river. And visitors need access. The Sabal Palm Audubon Center cannot operate as an educational or visitor destination being located south of the border wall. We fear for the safety of our visitors, students and staff in this virtual ‘No Man’s Land,’ which will be cut-ff from the United States.
4th July 2014