Trump Border Wall Will Harm Biodiversity, Scientists Warn

A prototype of President Donald Trump’s promised border wall stands in front of the corrugated steel fence built in 1991 and the steel mesh fence built in the mid-1990s. (Bianca Bruno/CNS)

(CN) – President Donald Trump’s plan for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border presents a plethora of human rights and political concerns. And a study released Tuesday highlights effects the proposed wall would have on animal life.

In research published in the journal BioScience, a number of researchers found the border wall could affect endangered species that live in the regions between the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

Among others, the wall would affect the movement of the Mexican gray wolf, peninsular bighorn sheep, and jaguar.

Jaguars, which occasionally have been spotted throughout the American Southwest, would be disconnected from their Mexican range according to Oregon State University ecology professor William Ripple, one of the study’s 16 authors.

“And it’s not just solid walls that are the issue,” Ripple said. “Certain types of fencing can be a complete barrier to individual wildlife species. All of that should be considered.”

Ripple noted the border “bisects many important habitat types from desert to forest to scrublands or mountain ranges.”

He added, “These are important wildlife habitats, high in biological diversity, that span both sides of the border. I hope national leaders will listen to our conservation message.”

The study’s authors noted that within about 50 miles of the border, there are more than 17,000 square miles of land protected for biodiversity conservation. A border wall could have major negative effects on the conservation efforts and investments made in those areas, the authors noted.

Peninsular bighorn sheep, which is endangered, moves between California and Mexico for water and to give birth. The wall could prevent the sheep and other animals from making their regular migration routes.

A trio of javelina blocked from entering Mexico by an existing portion of border wall. (Matt Clark)

The authors issued a four-point call to action to lawmakers and other government agencies.

Among others, they called on the Department of Homeland Security to conduct the studies required under federal environmental laws and to work with scientists in the U.S. and Mexico. A federal judge has upheld the department’s authority to exempt the project from environmental review, though the Ninth Circuit will hear an expedited appeal of that ruling soon.

The lead author of the study was Rob Peters of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife. The study is endorsed by more than 2,500 scientists from 43 countries.

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