“The emergence of this never before documented jaguar lends optimism for the future of the species,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest program director. “It is also a powerful symbol of what tearing down specific segments of the wall could mean for endangered and threatened species recovery in the United States.”

Washington, DC

In addition to harming human communities, border wall construction in recent years has destroyed some of the nation’s most valuable wildlife habitat and blocked critical wildlife movement at a continental scale, including within national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments and wilderness areas. 

Taking down the most harmful segments of wall in the four states will reconnect habitat and re-open vital wildlife corridors. Defenders of Wildlife has prepared a policy paper with maps of wall segments that are most harmful to wildlife in the borderlands.

Mexican_gray_wolf
Jim Clark/FWS

This month, National Geographic reported that researchers captured footage of a young male jaguar on video just a few kilometers south of the intersection of Arizona-New Mexico-Mexico border. In January, President Biden paused construction of the border wall including a segment that would permanently seal off this region. If the wall was built or completed here, this jaguar would be prevented from crossing the border, and this is just one example of numerous impacts on wildlife and habitat from the wall. 

Scientists have recently identified a sizeable area in the U.S. as suitable habitat for the jaguar. In a study published last month, Defenders of Wildlife and conservation partners suggest far more potential jaguar habitat in the U.S. than previously identified – about 27 times the size of existing designated critical habitat. 

“The emergence of this never before documented jaguar lends optimism for the future of the species,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest program director. “It is also a powerful symbol of what tearing down specific segments of the wall could mean for endangered and threatened species recovery in the United States.”

Defenders of Wildlife has identified 18 wall segments in four states – California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – as top priorities for removal based on the following criteria: biodiversity, critical habitat, endangered species, protected areas, water resources and/or wildlife corridors.    

Border wall segment AZ that Defenders is advocating to be torn down
Defenders of Wildlife

“We must act now to tear down these segments of the wall to protect endangered wildlife and our nation’s significant investments in conservation,” said Bird. “Otherwise, we will lose valuable conservation gains in the borderlands.

In California, examples of species that are impacted by the wall are the Quino checkerspot butterfly, federally listed Peninsular bighorn sheep and flat-tailed horned lizard. There are two segments in California that Defenders recommends should come down in Otay Mountain Wilderness Area, San Diego County and Jacumba Mountains Wilderness Area, Imperial County.

In Arizona, jaguar, ocelot, Mexican gray wolves, long-nose bats, and endangered Sonoran pronghorn are species affected by the border wall, among others. There are nine segments of wall in Arizona that should be torn down or replaced with vehicle barriers designed so that wildlife can easily cross, including Las Playa-Pinta Sands, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

In New Mexico, jaguars, mountain lions, bobcats, and endangered Mexican gray wolves, among others, have limited movement between Mexico and New Mexico because the border wall bisects their habitat. There are four segments that should be torn down to protect endangered and threatened species, including the wildlife corridor in Peloncillo Mountains on the Arizona and New Mexico border.

In Texas, endangered ocelots are threatened by border wall infrastructure that runs close to their refuge habitat. During droughts, the wall may cut some species off from the river, their only water source. There are three segments that we recommend should be torn down, including the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.        

“Iconic species like the endangered Mexican gray wolf, ocelot and jaguar continue to be walled off from their habitat and each other,” said Bird. “We must tear down segment of the wall to give wildlife along the borderlands freedom to roam.” 

Quino checkerspot butterfly
Andrew Fisher/USFWS

To learn more about the values of each national wildlife refuge, national monument and wilderness area impacted by the wall in the borderlands, review our full detailed report here.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

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Gwen Dobbs
Gwen Dobbs
Director of Media Relations
gdobbs@defenders.org
(202) 772-0269

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