But under the heading of "unintended consequences," border fences are proving to be very effective at disrupting the movements of wildlife. The current issue of The Wildlife Professional, a publication of The Wildlife Society, reports that endangered species such as jaguars, ocelots, Sonoran pronghorn and many smaller, less-glamorous species are being disturbed. Birds are less affected, though the movement of ground-dwelling species such as quail can be impeded.
In the name of homeland security, we seem to be doing our best to destroy wildlife populations along the southern border. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act required portions of the fence to be cleared of all vegetation within 50 feet of either side of the fence. So even if animals try to find a way through the fence, they must do so without any cover.
In 2005, the Real ID Act authorized the waiver of laws that might delay construction of barriers along the California border. Consequently, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act have all been ignored in the name of national security.
And since passage of the Secure Fence Act in 2006, more than 30 federal laws, including the Clean Water Act and the Wilderness Act have been waived.
The impact of waivers of environmental laws is still being studied, but it is clear that border wildlife populations suffer. In one study using cameras and radio collars, bobcats influenced by fences moved their territories and experienced more collisions with highway traffic.
Biologists fear that species with dwindling U.S. populations will suffer as access to Mexican populations disappears. Long-term survival of U.S. populations of larger species such as jaguars and ocelots is in doubt. Fences restrict movement and gene flow and induce stress.
Snowy owls and northern feeder birds such as pine siskins, purple finches, and red-breasted nuthatches thrill birders when food shortages drive them southward across the border. Except for hummingbirds, I doubt the same will ever be said about Mexican species wandering north.
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, RD 5, Cameron, WV 26033 or via my website, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com.