Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mexico: Border wall would harm migratory endangered species

Photo: Walk along Arivaca Creek, near the US spy tower, 12 miles north of the border. The region is the migratory route of bats, jaguar, pronghorn, black bear and other rare species in Sonora, Mexico and southern Arizona. Photo Brenda Norrell Photo 2: Sonoran Pronghorn.

Mexico urges fence changes to aid animals

The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government said Monday it is seeking changes in a U.S. plan to expand fences along the two nations' border because of the threat to migratory species accustomed to roaming freely across the frontier.
The Environment Department said the fences would seriously hurt species that cross the 1,952-mile border, and said the United States needs to alter or mitigate the barriers — aimed at stopping migrants from crossing illegally into the U.S. — where necessary.
Mexico also wants Washington to expand its environmental impact study on the fences and will file a complaint with the United Nations' International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands if necessary.
"The eventual construction of this barrier would place at risk the various ecosystems that we share," said Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira, noting that the border includes desert, mountains, rivers and wetlands.
A report prepared for the Mexican government by experts and activists from both nations said the fences could isolate border animals into smaller population groups, affecting their genetic diversity.
Exequiel Ezcurra, director of research at the San Diego Natural History Museum, stressed that Mexico would not be the only loser from the construction of 700 miles of border fencing: the United States could lose visits from Mexican jaguars and black bears that have enriched U.S. ecosystems.
Environmentalists say highly endangered species such as the antelope-like Sonoran pronghorn — of which only about 100 still exist — could be wiped out in coming years, because they are used to moving across the border in search of scarce grassland.
Even strong lighting or radar could interfere with nocturnal species in border areas, and construction, maintenance and traffic along the walls would affect a wider strip of border land than just the fences themselves, the report states.
Elvira did not say what alternatives to the fences might be, but the report suggested creating bridge areas so ecosystems can remain connected, and wilderness areas or "green corridors" without roads that experts say may be less attractive to smugglers.
It also suggested "live" fences of cacti, non-permanent or removable fencing, night-vision instead of radar and more permeable fencing to allow water, insects and pollen to move across the border.

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