360 miles of National Park land at the border!

My first ‘protest’ memory involved putting pencil to notebook paper and writing the President about the harmful effects of DDT. The Weekly Reader had shocked everyone in class with news of Bald Eagles dying – and humans were to blame! As a youngster who loved to read, I thought the best way to stop this assault was with words. When news later reached our little town (likely through a newspaper) that the bird-killing chemical was to be banned, my environmental activism was born.

Fast forward to the next decade and humans were at it again. Eleven million gallons of oil suffocated 1,300 miles of shoreline in my beloved Alaska. Images of wildlife coated in toxic goo haunted me; particularly the birds. And, to learn that the whole incident was preventable error was beyond comprehension.

Now it seems that we are staring at the next ‘preventable error.’ The difference this time – it’s a planned environmental catastrophe!

The Border Wall. Photo courtesy of © KristaSchlyer.com

The second Bush administration started building walls on the U.S. southern border; and set regulations to waive environmental laws for building on public lands. The current administration can now start construction on any of the public lands along the border with no concern for habitats, ecosystems, or wildlife.

Public lands at risk. Image by NPCA

Terrestrial animals could drown; will not be able to access the necessary ranges; be trapped; suffer diminished genetic diversity; and possibly become extirpated and/or extinct. This 18- to 50-foot monstrosity would likely have the “standard 150-foot enforcement zone” beside it in places “for a clear, dirt, militarized road” (“Walling Off Wildlife” by Tiffany Kersten, American Birding Association Birder’s Guide, p. 27, August 2018, Vol. 30, No. 2).

But birds can fly so they’ll be fine, right? It’s no longer the Middle Ages when ‘wall-building’ was a strategy to keep ‘them’ away from ‘us’. And, we’re even 50+ years past the simultaneously ineffectual and damaging physical and ideological barrier erected in Berlin. (That one was brought to the ground only 28 years later.) We are now in the 21st Century and understand that ecosystems include all living and nonliving components and their interactions. Destroy the habitats – destroy the wildlife. So the answer is an emphatic “NO” the birds will not be fine. Nor will any other environmental component if the border wall gets built.

50-mile Border Impact Zone. Image by USFWS.

These are some of the birds we share with our southern neighbors.

Cactus Wren. Photo by © KS Nature Photography

Gila Woodpecker. Photo by © Robin Edwards

Phainopepla. Photo by © Robin Edwards

Western Tanager. Photo by © Michael Todd

Anna’s Hummingbird. Photo by © Robin Edwards

Gambel’s Quail. Photo by © Michael Todd

Montezuma Quail. Photo by © Michael Todd

Harris’s Hawk (juvenile). Photo by © KS Nature Photography

Green Kingfisher. Photo by © Michael Todd

Green Jay. Photo by © Robin Edwards

Great Kiskadee. Photo by © Robin Edwards

American Avocet (with chick). Photo by © KS Nature Photography

Scott’s Oriole. Photo by © Michael Todd

Altamira Oriole and Audubon’s Oriole share a moment at the feeder.
Photo by © Michael Todd

Altamira Oriole’s song

Altamira’s map. According to Audubon, “this big tropical oriole is common in northeastern Mexico, but was not found in our area until 1939. It has since become common year-round in native woods of far southern Texas.”

Audubon’s Oriole song

Audubon’s map. According to Audubon, “In native woodlands and brushy country of far southern Texas, this large oriole is an uncommon resident.”
With a wall, we may not see these beauties anymore…

If you want to stop this madness, exercise the ‘power of the pen(cil)’ and get involved.

* Sierra Club Toolkit – filled with facts and ways to get involved
* Sierra Club Environmental Impact Brochure – with the list of laws being waived
* Official Sierra Club Grassroots Network Campaign – social media actions
* Borderlands Campaign – Sierra Club Facebook group for this issue

Also opposed to that wall:
The Owls of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas

(Featured image – Buenos Aires NWR. Photo courtesy of © Matt Clark/Defenders of Wildlife)


Written by Angela Minor
Angela Minor’s first avian adventure involved a 1000-mile road trip just to look at hummingbirds. As a lifelong vagabond, she has lived, traveled, and birded across the continental U.S., Alaska, the Caribbean, and seven European countries over the past three decades. Freelance travel writer is her third career, following teacher and small business owner. She’s a regular contributor to several travel publications including Blue Ridge Country and Smoky Mountain Living, and writes feature articles for Ft. Myers Magazine, 3rd Act, and international cruise sites. She serves as a field editor with Birds & Blooms, the “Park Watch” Beat Writer for 10,000 Birds, and authors the state park birding series for Bird Watcher’s Digest.