Today, Defenders of Wildlife launches a new interactive story map which details how border wall construction would impact the people, places and wildlife of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) in Texas. In the absence of a comprehensive environmental study of the impacts of the border wall, which the Trump administration has refused to conduct, Defenders’ has compiled an easy-to-use tool to understand the impacts.
The story map lets users take a highly detailed virtual tour of the LRGV and interact with different areas along the border to see how a wall would threaten this valuable ecosystem. One of the areas emphasized is the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most biologically diverse landscapes in the continental United States. A dynamic map highlights the refuge parcels that have already been cut off by the existing wall and those that are threatened to be cut off by proposed new wall.
Communities in the LRGV are also being put at risk from construction, as well as already existing wall that blocks access to private property, including farms and businesses along the river.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“The Lower Rio Grande Valley has become ground zero for the Trump administration in its pursuit of a border wall that will destroy precious landscapes and communities. This region is home to some of the most biodiverse habitat in the United States and is crucial to the survival of endangered species like the ocelot.
“Tools like this story map are important resources in highlighting the devastation further border construction would have on species, local communities and regional economies in the Southwest. Defenders of Wildlife will continue to fight for this unique and vibrant region and the people and wildlife that call it home."
Multimedia Use: For reporters looking to use the story map or any of the multimedia included for publication, please credit Defenders of Wildlife.
- Concrete levee wall is already being constructed in one parcel of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) National Wildlife Refuge with funds provided in FY 2018 appropriations legislation.
- Already, 115 miles of the Texas-Mexico border are walled off with concrete or steel. The Trump administration has issued legal waivers to build an additional 35 miles of the wall and issued contracts for construction of 14 miles of proposed wall using 2018 appropriations. Congress has appropriated enough funds in 2018 and 2019 to build 88 miles of new concrete and steel walls in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
- Wall construction would effectively sever and wall off parcels of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, the National Butterfly Center and the La Lomita chapel in Mission, Texas are also threatened by planned wall construction, although funding for construction in those areas has been withheld by the recent appropriations bill.
- The Lower Rio Grande Valley is home to more than 700 vertebrate species, 300 species of butterfly, more than 500 bird species and at least 18 threatened or endangered species, including the highly-endangered ocelot and jaguarundi.
- LRGV Refuge was established in 1979 to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas by preserving an east-west wildlife corridor along the last 275 river miles on the U.S.–Mexico border to the Gulf of Mexico.
- LRGV Refuge currently consists of more than 145 individual tracts totaling approximately 100,000 acres, connecting otherwise isolated habitat areas including private conservation properties, state parks, federal lands and other land ownerships.
- Over nearly 40 years, taxpayers have spent more than $75 million to acquire the Lower Rio Grande Valley Refuge wildlife corridor, and millions more to support regional habitat connectivity. Border wall construction through this corridor will essentially throw that investment away.
- Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is a biological treasure that provides habitat for more than 400 species of birds, over 300 species of butterflies and at least eight species protected under the Endangered Species Act, including the critically imperiled ocelot.