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Rich borderlands biodiversity faces devastation from border wall construction

Krista Schlyer

According to acclaimed conservation writer and photographer, Krista Schlyer, the rare, U.S.-Mexico borderlands ecosystems are severely threatened “by the largest waiver of federal laws in U.S. history.”

Schlyer, the keynote speaker for 2017 Geography Awareness Week at Michigan State, says the waivers, legislatively authorized in 2005, apply specifically to border wall construction.  The legislation enables the Dept. of Homeland Security to waive, and essentially eviscerate, over 40 federal laws, including The Endangered Species Act, The Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which would otherwise protect the “fantastic, incredible, unique” biodiversity of the borderlands.

Schlyer explains that among many factors that make the borderlands so special is the gradual convergence of the temperate and topical zones which support thousands of animal and plant species.  This natural boundary includes, for example, high mountains in close proximity to deserts, “radically different ecosystems that support an abundance of wildlife rarely found anyplace else on Earth.”

The border wall already includes over 300 miles of impermeable structures which prevent endangered animals, like jaguars, from natural migration necessary for them to survive.  The Trump Administration’s proposal to complete the wall, including the erection of 30-foot high structures, would be incalculably devastating for many borderlands species, she says. 

Schlyer’s presentation, “Continental Divide:  Wildlife, People and the Border Wall,” is slated for Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m., in room N-130 of the MSU Business College Complex.  The presentation is hosted by the MSU Dept. of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences

“I hope my talk at Michigan State will help further an understanding of the importance of [the borderlands] and its unique role in the preservation of biodiversity in the U.S.  I also hope it will also encourage people to contact their lawmakers to help them better understand what is happening on the border.” 

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