The Environmental Impact of Border Security

In our Critical Issues class today, we got to listen to two environmental activists who support borderlands ecosystems. First, we heard Sergio Avila from the Sky Island Alliance talk about the importance of nature to people and the economy. Second, we listed to Dan Millis from the Sierra Club Borderlands Campaign talk about the destruction that Border Patrol has caused to the environment around the United States-Mexico border.

In the first talk, Sergio talked about the environment surrounding the borderlands. We learned that the borderlands are very diverse, with four different climates represented. He showed us pictures of jaguars, ocelots, bobcats, and mountain lions-all found in Arizona! Unfortunately, they may not all continue to live here. The Real ID act passed in 2005 allows the Department of Homeland Security to disregard 36 federal laws in order to build the border wall, including the Safe Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. I had no idea that the government could violate its own laws. These environmental laws were made and passed for a reason and I find it shocking that they are being disregarded.

Animals do not care about international borders-they care about where to find food and water. In the picture, you see three deer stopped by the wall, unable to go to places their predecessors had traveled to for thousands of years. Sergio talked about the problems the wall poses for migratory patterns.

Dan Millis talked about using large predators as an indicator of the health of an ecosystem. If an area is healthy, it will be have enough food (small animals) for large predators. This is why the jaguar population of Southern Arizona is of such interest to environmentalists, and I assume why both Dan and Sergio spent time talking about the big cats.

Dan pointed out that Arizona might be the U.S. state most affected by the border wall—though Arizona has only 19% of the entire U.S.-Mexico border length, roughly 50% of the wall is here. Dan showed us pictures of Otay Mountain Wilderness Area where Border Patrol had made destroyed habitat in order to make roads and walls. How can we ruin the resources of our own country while claiming to protect it?

To conclude this blog post, I would like to leave you all with one comment: not a single terrorist has been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, but how many animals, trees, and birds have died because of it? Don’t we have the obligation to protect those who have no voice?

–Katherine Szocik

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