When we talk about the consequences of the 33 miles of proposed wall at the US-Mexico border, we usually think in terms of people: who will approve it, who will build it, who will be separated by it. But along the political divide are rich pockets of biodiversity, with dwindling populations of species that move back and forth across the border.
Building a wall through those habitats and migration pathways could spell disaster many of these species of reptiles, mammals, and birds. Man-made barriers have been linked to a decrease in genetic diversity, even when they’re semi-permeable. And they’re often better at blocking animal movement than they are at blocking humans. For species like mule deer in Arizona, that can pose a serious threat to their survival.
Under the 2005 Real ID act, the Department of Homeland Security can waive various environmental laws that might otherwise slow or halt construction in a sensitive area. That means laws like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act couldn’t be invoked in border wall construction.
Several parcels of protected land in South Texas, including the National Butterfly Center, a state park, and other areas in the federal wildlife refuge system, are threatened by wall construction. It could be years before construction starts in some of these areas, and there’s still a lot we don’t know about the full impact of barriers on biodiversity in this region.
But watch the video above to see what we do know about how border barriers can wreak havoc on the environment.
By Design is a Vox video series about the intersection of design and technology, hosted by Christophe Haubursin. You can find this series and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube.