Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Impending Death of the LRGV

The Rio Grande (Mexico in the middle) from the National Butterfly Center. If the wall goes up you will never have this view again.
© Heidi Eaton

Make no mistake, the construction of a border wall, or even a fence, would doom the economies and ecologies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley LRGV) in south Texas. Public and private lands alike would take the brunt of a closed border, effectively impoverishing every aspect of life in the region. I speak from having visited the area on three separate occasions.

Among our favorite places in Texas is Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, a world-famous destination for tourists wishing to see birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and other watchable wildlife found nowhere else in the United States. The planned route for the border wall would exclude visitors from half of the current acreage, if the park even remained open to the public at all. This is what the average American does not seem to understand: The rights of American citizens will be denied as a result of this massive undertaking.

The National Butterfly Center, where new U.S. records for Mexican species are documented almost annually, will likewise be heavily compromised, and that is private property. Why Libertarians and others who hold private property in sacred esteem are not up in arms over this is beyond me. There is a lawsuit pending, but it may have little impact, for reasons that should terrify you.

To pave the way for the border wall in the legal sense, executive orders rescinded protections afforded by: The National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act), The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, The Archeological Resources Protection Act, The Solid Waste Disposal Act, The Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act, The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, and The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, among several other distinguished pieces of legislation (nearly thirty in total) that make this country truly great.

Were it not for persistent and vocal protests, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge would already be bisected by the wall. For now it has received a temporary stay of execution (of wall construction). The refuge is a gem, with a variety of habitats and mind-blowing biodiversity from "bugs" to birds.

A border wall would have a devastating impact on wildlife, for even though birds could fly over the barrier, the habitat would be so fragmented by the structure and accompanying 150-foot "enforcement zone" that migrant wildlife would no longer have refuge in their travels; and resident wildlife would likewise be displaced. Meanwhile, have we learned nothing from the insidious networks of tunnels beneath our existing border barriers? Do we truly believe for an instant that "coyotes" will be deterred from their businesses of human trafficking and gun and drug running?

Opposition to a border wall can take many forms, and you are encouraged to pursue one or more of them:

  • Engage in in-person protests at various border locations.
  • Call, write, and e-mail your U.S. Representatives and Senators to express your outrage in polite but assertive language.
  • Bombard the White House with calls, e-mails, and letters.
  • Donate to the National Butterfly Center and other conservation organizations, and humanitarian non-profits that are fighting the border wall.
  • Find out who the contractors are for construction of the wall and urge them to cease activity. Threaten to not do business with them otherwise.
  • Continue visiting the border and infusing the local economies with your tourist dollars. Ask locals how best you can help them fight the wall.

Our current U.S. President is hell-bent on erecting a highly visible legacy of his own fear of immigrants and refugees instead of enacting foreign and domestic policies that would defuse volatile relations with Mexico and Central America instead of igniting more fires. He insists on punishing law-abiding citizens in the U.S. instead of crafting more stringent laws against human trafficking, and expanding the currently overworked agencies charged with handling the deluge of legitimate refugees seeking asylum.

Foreign policy should address corrupt governments that lead to mass exodus, but we need the cooperation of our allies, the UN, and other international bodies that the President has turned his back on. We may even need more official ports of entry along the border so that the few currently in play are not overwhelmed, and adjacent lands between those posts can be patrolled more easily.

We have by no means exhausted all our options with regard to immigration reform, but we will be taking a step backward by building a wall. Yes, Mr. President, it would be something concrete, literally if not figuratively, but what you personally gain from visibility you will lose by several orders of magnitude in credibility, both at home and abroad.


  1. Thank you for this. So we have a falsely fabricated problem, a solution that wouldn't solve that problem even if it were real, at great economic cost, doing immeasurable environmental and cultural damage. A 4th Century solution to a 21st Century problem.

  2. Hi. A correction and some additional information. Nearly all of Bensten State Park except the visitor's center will be behind the wall. And based on the donation of the property, if the land isn't made accessible to the public, ownership may revert to back to the Bensten family.

    A quote from the Texas Tribune:
    "Smith, the state parks chief ... said the structure would 'bifurcate the park, meaning the headquarters and visitors center would be north of the border wall and the entire remainder of the park that the public uses would be on the south side of the wall.'"

    At this point, I think the only chance of saving us from the wall is impeachment. Democrats have already given enough funding for 33 more miles of wall which will cut off Bensten and the majority of the National Butterfly Center's property. Surveyors have been out recently at NBC. Construction begins in February. If we are very lucky, we will get gates and still be able to access the land behind the levee wall. But the Hidalgo Pump House was given a gate with the last wall building and that gate has never been opened. A few gates won't help wildlife very much though. Populations will be isolated and die off. And every time anyone goes to these parks, we will get to view the "Big Beautiful Wall."

    Currently the plan is to clear a 150-foot enforcement zone around the wall, but some people fear the government will just clear cut all the land behind the levee wall. Why wouldn't they? It would make monitoring for attempted wall breaches much easier. It would also cause horrible erosion and take away nearly all the remaining habitat for a lot of animals. But they have waived any laws that would stop them from doing it.

    Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is also nearly all behind the levee. Thankfully there was enough news coverage that that park was spared for now. Hard to believe that will remain safe for long if Trump gets enough funding on his wall. He isn't going to allow us to be unprotected from the bad hombres and hungry children.

    I hope next time you get to come down here, none of this will have happened. But it is not looking good.

  3. I am libertarian, and believe that reasons for wanting a border "wall", the people who feel it is necessary, and the reasons why is a disgrace to what we, as Americans hold dearly. There is just no need to wantonly destroy habitat for something as useless. That is my take on many empty parking lots, strip malls, and other non useable places scattered in this great country that were once an open area, and now, nothing is going on with them.