Birder's Guide

AUG 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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T his place, so dear to my heart, is Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which protects the U.S.'s largest tract of Tamaulipan thornscrub along the Rio Grande. With over 400 species of birds and more species of butterflies on its list than any other state, Santa Ana is often understandably referred to as the crown jewel of the nation's national wildlife ref- land. Indeed, there are still about 80 (out of 300) open court cases with private land- owners from the first round of border wall installed a decade ago during the second Bush administration. Public land, on the other hand, can be built upon almost im- mediately. This was the current adminis- tration's impetus for targeting Santa Ana and other national wildlife refuges. In December 2017, Border Patrol sector chief Manuel Padilla stated publicly that if any funds were allocated for border walls, the very first segment would be installed at Santa Ana NWR. Receiving about 150,000 visitors annually, the 2,088-acre refuge spans about three miles west to east and is the longest linear tract of federal land in the region, meaning that the Trump adminis - tration can waive the environmental laws and build a wall there at will. (This was made possible by the regulations set during the last round of border walls during the second Bush administration.) If a wall were built at Santa Ana, it would destroy much of the refuge's habitat and slice the visitor center from the entirety of the refuge. Plans for new border walls were released in summer 2017 and outlined 28 miles in Hidalgo County, which, added to the pre- existing 22 miles, would wall off the entire county from the river—placing homes, farms, businesses, and 8,600 acres of con- served public green space in "No Man's Land". In some uge system. And this special place has now become a flashpoint in the current U.S. immigration debate. WILDLIFE VS. BORDER WALLS Today, the lower Rio Grande Valley is heav- ily populated, and as with most of Texas, privately owned. As such, there are few public access points to the Rio Grande. Private landowners with land on the south side of the wall fear that they will either lose their land or be sentenced to liv- ing a life in "No Man's Land" com- pletely walled off from the rest of their country. Many issues accompany the building of a border wall on private n Santa Ana's observation tower provides incredible views of the forest spanning from the U.S. into Mexico, making it one of the best locations at which to see Hook-billed Kite in the U.S. Photo © Anne McCormack n Proposed and existing border wall. Santa Ana NWR is the large red area. Walling off Wildlife 28 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | August 2018

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