Borderlands wildlife doesn’t need the National Guard

Protecting migratory corridors requires collaboration between neighboring nations.

 

Ron Pulliam
Gary Paul Nabhan
The writers are contributors to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of NewTowncarShare News. Ron Pulliam has served as president of the Ecological Society of America and as director of the Resources Division of the U.S. Geological
Survey. Gary Paul Nabhan has served under both Republican and Democratic presidents on the National Park System Advisory Board, and has lived and worked in three border parks. They are both among the founders of the Borderlands Restoration Network, and live within 20 miles of the Mexican border.


Have you ever crossed a national boundary and realized that wildlife had crossed the very same line? We’ve frequently seen the evidence of such crossings, as both of us have lived and worked close to the international boundary with Mexico for much of the last four decades. From endangered pronghorn antelope to lesser long-nosed bats, rufous hummingbirds and monarch butterflies, itinerant species that routinely cross the border have thrilled us with their stunning presence.

These creatures and many others have long traveled migration routes that span hundreds or even thousands of miles. They deserve not only our respect but also our assistance in guaranteeing their safe passage.

A rufous hummingbird in Dana Point, California.

But their safe passage is not assured these days, because of the recent deployment of National Guard troops and talk of a trumped-up wall at the border. We recognize that public rancor and political debate are resetting the fate of both human “Dreamers,” those young people who are not yet citizens, and migrating wildlife. Our sympathies are with the Dreamers, and we also know that border security can be achieved without further impact on border wildlife.

Recently, some Westerners were surprised to learn of one conservation initiative that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was wise enough to support: the restoration of some trans-boundary wildlife corridors. Zinke has expressed interest in partnerships that protect migratory corridors for the large game animals of the Northern Plains of the United States and Canada.

Zinke should also consider the wild animals that migrate across our southern border, and how the proposed Trump wall and the National Guardsmen now being placed there are sure to harm this wildlife. Where we work in Arizona, unimpeded corridors are critical to maintaining viable populations of several of the federally listed mammals that Zinke is charged to protect.

If the Trump wall is ever built, it will unnecessarily fragment trans-boundary wildlife corridors in ways that will profoundly affect pronghorn, bison and two deer species. It would also put at further risk jaguars, Mexican wolves, black bears and ocelots. Even if the wall is not built, we are concerned about the 338 members of the National Guard who are being deployed to the Arizona-Mexico border. That's nearly one soldier for every mile of our state’s southern line.

Unlike the Border Patrol, the National Guard is not given an in-depth orientation about issues relating to the Endangered Species Act, the Lacey Act or the American Antiquities Act. The result is that the National Guard is ill-equipped to take on any sensitive issues relating to species and environments unique to the Borderlands. As a result, they are more likely to break laws than to uphold them.

There are effective means to curtail human traffic across the border that do not disrupt wildlife movements. Most residents along the border know this. Zinke is already concerned about safe passage for certain wildlife species, mainly the big game animals that American hunters love to pursue. But bi-national restoration of wildlife corridors on both sides of the United States-Mexico line would sustain even more wildlife and also support much-needed livelihoods.

That’s why our nonprofit Borderlands Restoration Network has begun creating dozens of “green jobs” in these communities. By collaborating with ranchers and others, we are generating livelihoods and fostering strong collaborative efforts, both of which can provide positive deterrents to chaos at the border.

If Zinke’s goals are to benefit wildlife and restore the economy of the rural West, he would do well to learn more about the many success stories in southern Arizona. Wildlife migrations require true collaboration with our neighboring nations, both north and south. We invite Zinke to join us in this important effort.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of NewTowncarShare News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Siskiyou Field Institute (SFI) delivers outdoor science and natural history educational programs to adults and youth. SFIs Deer Creek Center (DCC) houses our southwest Oregon...
  • Sierra Club is looking for a community organizer who can help us protect grizzly bears and other wildlife species in the Northern Rockies region. This...
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • This position provides professional* real estate services for CPW and the Commission to include acting as an official representative in real property transactions and negotiations...
  • 16' Long x 7' Wide x 7',fully equipped,top of line,$7000 sale price. Contact: [email protected]
  • Sycamore Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) located in Bloomington, IN, is seeking an exceptionally qualified, motivated candidates for Executive Director.
  • The Director of Marketing and Communications will plan and lead execution of the NFF external marketing and communications efforts. The position will provide strategic and...
  • Development and Communications Coordinator for HawkWatch International. Emphasis on grant writing and fundraising through various social media platforms. Salary range $35,000-$38,000.
  • Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • Join HCN and Black Sheep Adventures on an expedition through the national parks and monuments of Utah and Southwest Colorado, September 7 - 15, 2019....
  • Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is hiring a full-time Restoration Program Coordinator based in Escalante, Utah. gsenm.org
  • Work passionately on behalf of the finest hiking and equestrian trail in the Western United States. Work for the Pacific Crest Trail Association! The Pacific...
  • 7.58 Acres in Delta County for $198,000. and a contiguous 25 acre parcel of land zoned agricultural is available in Montrose county for an additional...
  • in Moab, UT start in Spring. Naturalist, River Guides, Camp Cooks, Internships available. Details at cfimoab.org/employment.
  • Friends of the San Juans is looking for an experienced attorney. Details at: http://sanjuans.org/2018/09/26/staff-attorney-fall-2018/
  • 25 acre in native grasses. Cedar draw. Year-round spring. At foot of Moscow Mnt, ID, 7 miles from town.
  • Custom-built pumice home, endless views, 20 minutes to Taos Ski Valley, NM. Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Taos Real Estate, 575-758-1924, https://hcne.ws/highdeserthaven
  • 5,000 square foot sustainable home on 30 acres in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 20 minutes to Taos Ski Valley, NM. Berkshire Hathaway Home Services...
  • 541-987-2363, [email protected] www.dukewarnerrealtyofeasternoregon.com
  • Reporting to the Board of Directors (Board), the Executive Director (ED) has overall operational responsibility for FoGB staff, programs, expansion, and execution of the mission....