The Border, the President, the Wayback Machine

The current occupant of the White House gave a speech to Americans about the urgency of U.S. taxpayers funding a border wall. (As with the deficit and Mexico paying for the wall, Republicans no longer mention the president’s TelePrompTer use.) The major television networks acquiesced and broadcast the scripted, sometimes coherent harangue. Never mind that in 2014 the same networks declined to give airtime to the President – that would be Barack Obama – addressing the nation about border security. The reason given? It was too political. Previously, the networks did air George W. Bush’s immigration speech.

Continue reading “The Border, the President, the Wayback Machine”

But What About the Animals?

As the government shutdown drags on and visitors to unpatrolled national parks deface the landscape with off-road vehicles and leave their shit – literal and metaphoric – behind, and unpaid TSA workers call in sick to major airports, and senior White House appointees – Mike Pence included – are a bout to receive $10,000 pay increases, let’s give some attention to the animals about to be affected by the border wall Mexico is paying for.

Because of the purported urgency of the U.S.-Mexico barrier, environmental laws have been waived. The portion of the wall built so far has already had consequences, including some animal species separated from their food and water sources, others cut off from millennia-old migration routes, and habitats destroyed. One example is a herd of wild bison that regularly – without passports – crosses the border. On the U.S. side is a patch of native grass the animals feed on. On the Mexico side is the only year-round water source in the area.

Wild animals have not accepted that climate change is a hoax promoted by liberals and scientists. Rising temperatures and worsening drought exacerbate the difficulty of finding food and water. Splitting up species, as the wall will do, lessens an animal’s chance of finding a viable mate, meaning, obviously, fewer offspring. Inevitable inbreeding leads to disease and less genetic diversity. Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, put it succinctly, “Building an impermeable wall along the longest border in the Western hemisphere is a stupid idea — it’s senseless. It’s truly a moronic move by a truly moronic administration.”

Assuming Trump’s Folly will be built, Wyoming gives us an example of how to mitigate the consequences for wildlife. For the past six thousand years, Yellowstone pronghorn antelope have annually migrated along a 170-mile corridor between the upper Green River basin and Grand Teton National Park. U.S. Highway 191 imposed a barrier to the pronghorn’s travels. To promote migration and reduce the carnage from animals trying to cross the highway, the Wyoming Department of Transportation built eight overpasses. It took a couple years, but the pronghorn have adapted and the animal-automobile collisions have been reduced over seventy percent. One would think such crossings should be simple to monitor for people migration.

How’s That Wall Coming?

Our President’s budget proposal designates $2.6 billion to design and begin to build the wall along the Mexican border. Estimates of cost to build the whole thing range as high as $25 billion. So far, no details on Mexico’s paying for it. (The simplest way, based on the history of Trump projects, would be to hire Mexican contractors and then not pay them.) The budget also requests money to hire twenty additional attorneys to pursue condemnation of privately-owned land for the wall. Some landowners in Texas have already received notices.

Congressman Henry Cuellar with constituents

Congressman Henry Cuellar, whose district includes 180 miles of the Texas-Mexico border has been hearing from his constituents, and they are not happy. Ninety percent of the Texas border is in private ownership. One constituent property has been in the family since a Spanish land grant in 1767. “Once the land is destroyed, it will never be the same,” the owner said. “We have oaks and mesquite that have been there for generations, foxes and other animals and an ecosystem that has been untouched.”

At the present, 670 miles are fenced. Only 1,263 to go.