Border fence raises concerns about wildlife. Environmentalists say barrier will do a better job stopping animals than undocumented workers





  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar


    I have been along the Mexican border on photo trips the past 3 winters and I want a fence! If one fence doesn’t stop them, then build a double fence! The old three or four strand barbwire fences (some of them laying on their side) that I saw along the New Mexico and Arizona borders with Mexico are a joke.

    The illegals are trashing(I saw piles of clothing and discarded water bottles everywhere) our border areas and destroying our wildlife refuges (Cabeza Prieta and Buenos Aires) and National Parks(Organ Pipe) as well. They abandon thousands of vehicles on public land and Indian reservations along the border and leave tire tracks and roads all over the desert (including the refuges and park)during their drug and people smuggling activities. The damage done to the environment by the illegals, is far greater than any fence will do.

    I was warned by an Arizona photographer to carry a weapon if I hiked in some areas along the Mexican border, because of the large numbers of Mexican gangs running people and drugs.
    Border patrol agents told me they needed a vehicle proof barrier, along the entire border, to stop the caravans of trucks and vans crossing the border at night.

    Human over- population is the greatest threat to wildlife both in this country and worldwide. Illegal immigration is a major driving force in over- populating our country!

  2. Monty Avatar

    Thorngreen, I agree with over population but why not iron rail fences that will stop vehicles but allow passage of wildlife? The way to stop hiring of illegals would be to lock up the employers who hire these people. As long as there are potential jobs, the “illegals will continue to come, even if they have to “tunnel” underneath the fences.

  3. Brian Ertz Avatar

    the border wall is no doubt a contentious issue, especially among greens. good move for right-wingers … divide and conquer ?

    for my part, having spent a few years on the border in one of the most trafficked areas, i would say that warnings to carry a weapon are about as legitimate as warnings to keep kids off bus-stops with wolf reintroduction ~ it’s BS. but if it makes you feel better ~ why not escalate the danger in any encounter ?

    these warnings do more to eradicate hopes of conservationists and humanitarians alike – on the border – to build bridges among communities of people – and activists – rather than walls between them. they are the same visceral feelings which seek to alienate those of us in the north from things we don’t understand by projecting myth – whether it be wolves, bears, wild places, or even human beings ~ if they are ‘other‘ than they are easier to pin the blame on for our unwise choices and policies. NAFTA assaulted these people. our unwise water uses, and of course ~ the remnant sentiments of generations in the past that resent poverty or the wrong skin tone.

    you say ‘illegal’, i say economic refugee and wonder about the world-view that would criminalize the act of being a human being on the wrong side of a geo-politically contrived imaginary line. wildlife doesn’t recognize the border.

    i can understand why photographers would be appalled by the trash on the border ~ there is certainly trash, and for anyone planning a trip down there i would be prepared for that level of aesthetically diminished value ~ but there is no question that for those whose conservation ethic includes ecological values, the militarization of the border eradicates hopes for contiguous wildlife corridors ~ it is far far far worse for the environment than the aesthetically unappealing consequences of an immigration policy that forces people underground – into black markets where women and children alike are confronted with the choice of being exposed to criminal behavior because there is no legitimate alternative which would assure their children bread or hope.

    as for overpopulation ~ i would purport that the average affluent american uses/consumes twice as many resources as 10 of the average economic refugees. the problem is over-consumption, numbers certainly contribute to that, but again ~ resting the problem on others’ lifestyle (or in this case their very existence) to avoid confronting the fact that it’s the 1st world – not the 3rd world’s choices, that are at the root ~ won’t help.

    many times i saw a woman huddled over children on the side of the highway ~ she didn’t speak my language nor share my complexion ~ we were from different worlds ~ but i could see, witnessing no more than her posture ~ that she shared my humanity in the way that she loved her children… all of the walls – whether physical, political, psychological, etc. mattered a little bit less ~ and in scratching the surface a little bit deeper – i soon came to develop an understanding that it is these very walls ~ physical, political, psychological, etc… not the human beings they seek to obstruct – that are at the root of each and every consequence, especially environmental, that anti-immigrationists decry.

  4. kt Avatar

    What a great Post, Brian!

    Jaguars can glide around plastic bottles and toilet paper.

    All this Wall is going to do is make drugs more expensive and deadly – on both sides of the border – and cause more misery all around. Perhaps that is why the Bush Crime Family and their cronies want it so much … They feed on blood and gore . And Who Knows Who all are the shady characters that are their good friends? Or what, exactly, is their involvement in all things Dark?

  5. Linda Hunter Avatar
    Linda Hunter

    Brian Ertz . . thank you for posting your views. I too have spent time around the border and also feel that it is a sad situation. I believe that things would even out eventually if we just relaxed the border. Just like I believe that wolves don’t need any kind of management at all, or coyotes. The drug people are their own worst enemys and the wealth that others feel they can have if they enter the US is nothing but smoke and mirrors. . not a road to happiness. Wolves and coyotes have plenty of predators in just the environment alone, as do all large mammals who are trying to survive. People who cross into the US in hopes of economic relief are mostly innocent people who have been led to believe there is hope for whatever is wrong with their lives here. . however, in Baja you can get a week’s worth of groceries for $20.00 US, or 200 pesos . . a days wages for a worker. Here in the US those same items now cost about $60.00 for one week. . about a day’s wages. There really isn’t much of an advantage to running the border in many many ways. But, the people need to see that for themselves. Many border patrol agents understand this and are kind as they deport the people back across the border. Why do humans feel such a need to fix and manage things?

  6. Salle Avatar

    My favorite response to over consumption is this:

    “You may be an American, however, contrary to popular marketing strategies, you can’t have it all…”

  7. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The Park Service is building a fence out or railroad rails welded into a jack fence along the border of Organ Pipe National Monument that does what you suggest. However, Mexican drug smugglers are using end loaders to build new roads over that fence.

    I agree with you that employers need to be penalized for hiring illegals. The Idaho ranchers and farmers who hire illegals are the same ones that want to shoot all of the wolves. Most of the domestic sheep that get killed by wolves in Idaho have Peruvian herders who get paid less than a $1000 a month to herd sheep 24/7 and don’t have a clue about keeping wolves and sheep apart.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This is a good point, Larry. You are absolutely right about the Peruvian sheep herders.

    They need training, and they need better pay and benefits. If they get them, they will do a better job herding sheep. They won’t disappear suddenly into the undocumented mass.

    Fewer conflicts with wolves, but also better grazing patterns will appear.

  9. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    I didn’t read the story because the link went to the “ContraCostaTimes” and wanted me to become a “free” member, which I declined. Having read some past articles, I know that jaguar restoration to the SW/N Mexico is at great risk if a great wall is built.

  10. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    Re. farmers and ranchers hiring illegals. This probably happens, but I doubt there are few if any illegals herding sheep in Idaho. Entry is tightly controlled and many of the herders come from the same families and/or same villages year after year. A figure of $700/month or less is probably more accurate and living in a sheep wagon or tent most of the year is a tough life, but there’s a waiting list to do it.

    And like all people, there are good sheepmen and herders and not. Ralph is right on with better training for herders is needed, and that will help predators and the land.

    The herders I’ve talked to, who come on a three year contract to shepherd sheep, know they could make far more money working construction or doing landscaping, etc. But to break their contract makes them an illegal alien, something most do not want to risk.

    Many former sheepherders, Basque and now also Peruvian, have found a way to stay permanently and are a welcome part of the Wood River Valley communities of Hailey, Bellevue Ketchum and Cary.

    Re. hazard pay – nope, there’s none of that, but during this past summer’s Castle Rock fire near Ketchum, there was great concern for the safety of the herders and sheep band that was caught in Warm Springs canyon. The band ended up being trucked 70 miles away and successfully — because of good, responsible herders provided with knowledge and a couple of loud guns — grazed thru the territories of four wolf packs w/o losing any ewes or lambs for the remaining two months of the season. No wolves were lost, either. It can be done.

    Maybe the whole issue of sheep grazing and wolves needs its own thread! Now, back to the FENCE.

  11. mikarooni Avatar

    Ah, I love the change that has come over America as our wise and loving leaders have shown us the way to a deeper and truer form of Christianity.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan