President Donald Trump's proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border would "bring significant environmental costs" exceeding any security benefit, according to biologist Tim Keitt.
"A monolithic wall to separate the U.S. and Mexico in the only places where biologists have found certain rare and endangered plants and animals means both direct habitat destruction and new barriers for already limited populations," Keitt, a professor of integrative biology at The University of Texas at Austin, wrote in an op-ed last week. "This would harm animals such as ocelots in South Texas and desert bighorn sheep in Arizona, along with endangered plants that need the free movement of pollinating insects and seed-dispersing birds."
Additionally, "erecting a wall would also block crucial migration pathways that knit together a range of species distributed on both sides of the border," threatening 50 unique species.
"Wall-building also means consuming materials, deforestation, pollution, increased carbon emissions and noise that disturbs wildlife — all in a unique river ecosystem containing biodiversity found nowhere else on Earth. Despite this, federal agencies have exempted this barrier's construction from normal environmental impact reviews.
"That should concern everyone," Keitt notes.
"The evidence that a wall will bring significant environmental costs far outweighs evidence of any benefit in terms of border security. What's more, environmental review could bring more attention to alternatives that would lessen the ecological upheaval. Having electronic sensors, for example, would be a way to detect human border-crossers without hindering the free movement of other living things in the same space."
He concludes, "we can't pretend we can build a wall without tremendous environmental impact, not to mention great financial cost. Even small segments of new wall on federal lands in places such as Big Bend National Park or the Lower Rio Grande Valley will devastate habitats and local recreation and ecotourism."
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