For more than a year we have assumed that Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge was safe from the threats posed by construction of a border wall. That may not be true anymore.
The blog Valley Greenspace is reporting that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is moving forward with plans to build a segment of border wall at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, despite a Congressional prohibition against wall construction there.
When Congress gave Trump funds for border wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley in 2018 and 2019, they stipulated that the funds could not be used for border walls in Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Santa Ana was explicitly placed off-limits along with other so-called carve-outs where no wall could be built, including La Lomita Chapel, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, and the National Butterfly Center.
Now according to supporters and advocates on the ground, Customs and Border Patrol are finding creative ways to circumvent the intent of the prohibition.
“CBP appears to be splitting hairs, taking advantage of this discrepancy in ownership of the land directly under the levee and ignoring the wall’s wider impacts to thwart the will of Congress. This levee-border wall will still encroach on Santa Ana,” said Jim Chapman, Vice-President of the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, the non-profit group that advocates for Santa Ana.
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, located along the Rio Grande River on the U.S. border with Mexico in south Texas, is one of the most ecologically important areas in the nation and unfortunately remains a target of proposed expansion of the border wall.
South Texas along the Rio Grande River has some of the greatest biological diversity of anywhere in the world – mainly because four distinct climates converge here: Subtropical, Temperate, Coastal, and Desert. This, in turn, fuels one of the biggest eco-tourism hotspots on the planet, supporting the economy and thousands of jobs.
Santa Ana NWR is one of three refuges in the South Texas Refuge Complex and is the heart of this biological oasis. As one of the top birding destinations in the United States, the refuge attracts more than 165,000 visitors each year and generates an estimated $462 million to the local economy.
Home to over 400 species of birds, 450 types of native plants, half of the U.S. species of butterflies, and many endangered, threatened or candidate species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act, Santa Ana NWR and surrounding landscapes provide critical habitat susceptible to disturbance if the wall is constructed in the fragile habitat.
The Refuge Association has always opposed the construction of the border wall through the refuge because it would disrupt the environmental integrity of one of the most biologically diverse areas in the U.S. and the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Nothing has changed. Walls and wildlife still don’t mix.