Border fence places Texas ecosystem in jeopardy, says researchers
Written byMELISSA GASKILL, New York Times/GW
A 18-foot-high steel-post fence has split a Texas nature preserve containing one of the nation's most biodiverse -- and threatened -- ecosystems.
The Nature Conservancy's Southmost Preserve near Brownsville is home to several threatened species, including the Southern yellow bat, the Texas tortoise and the ocelot, of which fewer than 50 remain in the country. Wildlife researchers are taking stock of how the 70-mile "pedestrian barrier," erected to discourage illegal immigration and drug trafficking, has affected the ecosystem.
"All wildlife roam along corridors," said Laura Huffman, director of the Texas office of the Nature Conservancy. "These are nature's highways. Any time you put an obstacle in a highway, it's going to affect mobility, the ability of animals to move back and forth."
Small openings are installed every 500 feet of the fence so animals can move from one side to the other. But researchers said some are too large to get through the holes.
Researchers are also concerned about the plant life in the affected areas.
"If we get the right constituents together, we can address national security concerns and maintain functioning ecosystems at the same time," said Jon Beckmann, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. "It can be done. It's just whether we as a nation decide it is something we want to do."