By Christina Tarr

Bad news: to absolutely no one’s surprise, Congress passed an Omnibus spending bill on March 22, 2018 that included funding for new sections of Trump’s big, beautiful (???) border wall. But there’s good news: to everyone’s surprise, the bill exempted the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a 2,088-acre patch of extraordinary biodiversity just south of Alamo, Texas, from those new funded sections. But there’s more bad news: while this is fantastic, it isn’t enough – the omnibus bill sends the wall through other important wildlife habitats along the Texas border.

For example, Congress allocated $1.6 billion to build 33 miles of new wall sections around the refuge in the Rio Grande Valley, and these barriers will disrupt land that is home to rare animals, plants, and birds. The affected land includes the National Butterfly Center, a state park, and several other tracts of land in the federal wildlife refuge system. The 33 new miles of wall will further fragment wildlife habitat along the border, will create 6,500 acres of no man’s land, and will trap wildlife and people the next time the Rio Grande floods.

Here are the wildlife areas that will be affected by new wall construction in Hidalgo County alone; another 8 miles of wall in Starr County will cause yet further destruction not included in this list:

  • La Parida Banco Refuge Tract (447 acres)
  • Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park (797 acres)
  • El Morillo Banco Refuge Tract (654 acres)
  • National Butterfly Center (100 acres)
  • Cottam Refuge Tract (1,037 acres)
  • Pharr Settling Basin (720 acres)
  • Milagro Refuge Tract (846 acres)
  • Marinoff Refuge Tract (432 acres)

Read our original article about the ecological disaster that is this wall here. Read this report by the US Fish and Wildlife about what an amazing place the Lower Rio Grande Valley is, and why these refuges are needed.

But let’s end with good news: our success in saving the Santa Ana is a sign that we can make a change! Call your members of Congress now and ask them to preserve all the important wild lands along the Texas border.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Graphic of Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, copyright U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

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