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Grist: Prairie Chicken

Author: Glenn Hurowitz
October 19, 2007

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Summary:

This article discusses how U.S. environmental groups have been split on the inside over the issue of immigration, with activists conflicted over population control, the movement of people from low-consuming countries to high-consuming countries, and separating endangered species via the wall from breeding opportunities south of the border.

Excerpt:

The bobcat turned, looked at me, and jumped into the mesquite brush. It was the first day of a three-day visit to South Texas, and I was exploring the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge along the Rio Grande River. Seeing the bobcat was a treat for me -- but the kind of treat that could become increasingly rare if the Bush administration and Congress go ahead with plans to build between 370 and 700 miles of double-layered concrete wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The efficacy of this plan to keep out "unwanted" foreigners is dubious at best, and highly controversial. But one thing is sure: it is likely to be the last nail in the coffin of some of the most extraordinary, and extraordinarily vulnerable, wildlife of the American Southwest.

Most of the wildlife of the border region has already been battered by more than a century of hunting, fencing, ranching, and agriculture. Ocelots, for instance -- a kind of small, but equally spotted version of a leopard -- once reached their northern limit in Arkansas and Louisiana. Now the 80 to 120 individuals still surviving in the United States cling to life along a small corridor of brush and forest along the Rio Grande -- the last 5 percent of wild land in South Texas that hasn't been cleared to make way for cotton, sorghum, and shopping malls.

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