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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Page 30 of 35

top to bottom : n Santa Ana is famous among birders for currently being the most reliable place in the U.S. at which to find Hook-billed Kite. Photo © Dave Curtis n Green Jay is one of about 30 species of bird which, within the U.S., can only be found in south Texas. Photo © Any Morffew n The author stands at the west end of the 682-person "Wall of Humanity" in August 2017. Photo © Tiffany Kersten 29 August 2018 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community places, the proposed wall would be over a mile and a half from the Rio Grande—the actual U.S.–Mexico border. In order to understand the impact of a bor- der wall on wildlife, one first needs to under- stand how things are now, and how things would be if the wall comes to pass. The cur- rent flood control levee consists of a road atop a mound, gently sloped on both sides and cov- ered in native vegetation. Endangered Texas indigo snakes and Texas tortoises can crawl up and down this slope at will. Ocelots, bobcats, and javelinas cross with ease. Installation of a border wall would eliminate the southern one-third of the levee and replace it with 18 feet of vertical concrete wall, topped with 6" x 6" steel bollards to reach a total height of up to 30 feet. Clearing space for a border wall would mean the destruction of more than 300 acres of imperiled habitat. Perhaps even more concerning is that the vertical concrete will make it impossible for terrestrial creatures to pass through. At best, this will limit the natu - ral movements of creatures and thus decrease their genetic diversity. At worst, many animals will be trapped by the wall and drown when the area floods (as Santa Ana and Bentsen State Park did for four months in 2010). Anything which cannot fly would be affected. Ocelots, of which an estimated 50–75 remain in the U.S. (all in the Rio Grande Valley), would likely be - come extirpated in the U.S. over time due to inbreeding caused by the elimination of gene flow from the much larger Mexican population. A CAUTIONARY TALE Santa Ana isn't the only NWR at risk. The Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR was first established in 1979 and has grown to protect tracts of land along the final 275 miles of the Rio Grande. The idea behind its creation was to conserve smaller tracts of land which are close enough to one another to permit wildlife movement among them, thereby increasing the quality and quantity of wildlife in the area at large. But part

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