Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

For Immediate Release: August 3, 2006

Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist, 520.623.5252 x306

Senate Vote to Fund 370 Miles of Border Triple Wall
Will Destroy Endangered Species and Ecosystems

Tucson, Ariz. – The Center for Biological Diversity blasted Wednesday’s U.S. Senate vote to fund the construction of a massive triple wall over 370 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, calling the plan a colossal environmental disaster and declaring that it will not stem the tide of illegal immigration.

More border walls, militarization, low-level aircraft and roads would further damage already-stressed wildlife and places, such as the Cactus Pygmy Owl and Sonoran Pronghorn in Arizona, Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard and Peninsular Ranges Bighorn Sheep in California, Jaguar and Mexican Gray Wolves in New Mexico, and the Rio Grande River, Ocelot, and Big Bend National Park in Texas. Triple walls are harmful to wildlife blocking critical migration corridors and destroying valuable habitat. The distance of the triple wall – 370 miles – is approximately the distance of the entire border in Arizona.

“It’s a sad day for America. In 1987, President Reagan stood before the Berlin Wall and stated, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’ but less than 20 years later, the Senate votes to build a new Berlin Wall on the U.S.-Mexico border," said Michael Finkelstein, Executive Director with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Jaguars, Mexican Gray Wolves, Peninsular Bighorn, low flying Pygmy Owls and other endangered species need to cross their borderland habitat often, and this wall will crush their ability to survive."

As federal enforcement intensifies, a key focus should be wildlife-friendly vehicle barriers in strategic and at-risk places on the border, such as the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Goldwater Range, Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge and Coronado National Forest. In a more reasonable move, the Senate also approved 461 miles of vehicle barriers, but it is not known if a wildlife-friendly design will be used.

Once the vehicle barriers are in place, agents should patrol in trucks only on roads right on the border or outside designated wilderness areas, and elsewhere on horse or foot. A wildlife-friendly vehicle barrier at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona has proven effective at stopping smuggling vehicles from entering the U.S. However, the Border Patrol is still driving off-road in wilderness areas where vehicles are prohibited, destroying fragile desert habitat and running down wildlife and pedestrian immigrants with “humvees,” trucks and off-road vehicles.

“Walls will block wildlife movement corridors and harm natural landscapes along our fragile southern border,” said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity who formerly worked with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. “The only living things the walls won’t stop are people. It’s a moral low-point for America when our government moves to destroy nature and wall us off from a friendly neighbor.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is based in Tucson, Arizona and has more than 25,000 members across the Southwest and the nation. The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit conservation organization that utilizes science, law, education and citizen activism to protect and restore endangered species and wild places. The Center also has offices in Phoenix, Arizona; Washington D.C.; Los Angeles, San Diego, Joshua Tree, San Francisco, and Shelter Cove, California; Silver City, New Mexico; and Portland, Oregon.


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