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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SAFETY IN THE VALLEY Six years ago, I moved to the Rio Grande Valley to work at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. I was a 26-year-old small-town Midwesterner who was afraid of her own shadow. I had never been anywhere near the border, let alone worked or lived on it. Friends fed me false stereotypes and unfounded fears that, regretfully, clouded my first impressions. Since moving here, I have experienced not a single border-related incidence in which I've felt threatened or in danger. I have walked the closest road that parallels the bor- der, just a few miles from my home, solo, at least 500 times over the past four years. To me, the Valley is safe. The Valley is my home. And my home is not a war zone. While it should be noted that undocumented migrants commit crimes at a lower rate than U.S. citizens, unlawful border crossings are hovering near a 40-year low, and our border towns are safer than most large U.S. cities.—all of this despite what some media outlets would have you believe. In my personal experience as a resident of the area, a border wall will do more harm than good. The environmental degradation and loss of access to some of our most cher- ished and celebrated birding sites, such as Santa Ana, would be a major blow to the birding community. And an overwhelming majority of my fel- low local residents agree. We do not have a border crisis. We have a crisis of misinformation. 32 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | August 2018 Walling off Wildlife • Anzalduas County Park (96 acres) • Anzalduas Tract (163 acres) • Cottam Tract (1,037 acres) • Pharr Settling Basin (720 acres) • Vela Woods (225 acres) • Milagro Tract (846 acres) • Kelly Wildlife Management Area (46 acres) • Marinoff Tract (432 acres) • Monterrey Banco (101 acres) • Santa Maria Tract (585 acres) The total area of natural habitat slated to be forfeited to "No Man's Land" (between the fence and the Rio Grande) is, according to the omnibus bill passed in mid-March 2018, over 6,525 acres. This acreage is equal to 5,019 NFL football fields. We must all make our voices heard, loud and clear, that we do not want a border wall slicing through some of the most diverse habitat in the entire country. HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY Educate • Talk with your friends and family on the issue; every moment of every day is a chance to be an advocate. Call • Each of us needs to call both of his U.S. senators and her U.S. representative. Spread the word and ask others to do the same. If you get a recording, leave a message. Even though funding is allocated, enough voices can still stop this ecological disaster. Email or Send Postards • Send a message about why you are opposed to border walls, and make sure to add your name and full mailing address to the card. It's important that your full address and ZIP code be included. Share on Facebook • Join and follow the "Save Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge" group on Facebook in order to stay up to date with news articles, events, and updates on funding re- garding the border wall everywhere in south- ern Texas—not just Santa Ana. We very much appreciate you liking and sharing our items on Facebook, but don't forget to also follow through with one or both of the items above! If Congress doesn't hear from you, your opinion doesn't affect decision making. Use the hashtags #NoBorderWall, #SaveBentsenStatePark, and #SaveTheWildlifeCorridor in your social me - dia posts. n Now that Santa Ana has been spared, the author (far left) has been leading monthly informative sunset hikes at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in order to raise awareness about the park's proposed closure. Photo © Tiffany Kersten

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