Thursday, October 4, 2007

Take Action! Comment on the Environmental Impact Statement for the Rio Grande Border Wall.

Comments about the construction of border walls in Texas are being accepted as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). “Environmental Impact” includes the impact on the human environment, as well as on wildlife and the quality of water and air. It is important that we raise all of our concerns during this time.

Please write, fax or e-mail your comments in by October 15, 2007.

Here are a few ways to focus your comments:

Destruction of wildlife habitat. The lower Rio Grande Valley has already been cleared of 95% of the brush. In an area considered one of the most biologically diverse in North America, any additional destruction of brush, including clearing 508 acres for construction of the wall, will have severe consequences for wildlife. How will wildlife survive with their habitat limited by a wall? How will they get to and from the river, find food, shelter, and potential mates in habitat dissected by a wall? In some cases like Starr County, the Rio Grande is the only source of water for wildlife. Any animal that encounters miles of wall will have to travel long distances for a very basic necessity, water.

Endangered & rare species. The ocelot, jaguarundi and red-billed pigeon currently face the real possibility of extinction or extirpation. These are just a few of the endangered and rare species whose U.S. populations would certainly collapse with construction of the wall. The ability of rare species like the ocelot and jaguarundi to cross into Mexico helps keep wildlife populations healthy by maintaining a level of genetic integrity. Reduction of gene flow among or within populations will reduce the likelihood of long-term survival of these species. . A formal Section 7 Consultation under the Endangered Species Act needs to be done.

Violation of International Migratory Bird Treaty. If construction of the wall takes place during the spring, as stated in the Federal Register, many migratory and nesting birds will be affected. The clearing of brush will destroy thousands of nests, many with young birds in them. This is in direct violation of the International Migratory Bird Treaty.

Impact of construction. What will be the impacts of construction? Of roads for vehicles and heavy equipment? Of lighting and transmission lines?

Economic impact. Access will be cut off for wildlife enthusiasts interested in wildlife watching, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking along the river. Eco-tourism brings more than $125 million to the RGV annually from 200,000 eco-tourists, creating 2,500 jobs in the local economy. What are the economic impacts of limiting access to refuges, state parks, and other public and private parks and natural areas?

Community impact. A wall could mean uprooting families from their homes and demolishing or cutting off access to historical buildings and community centers. How many people will lose their homes? What buildings will be destroyed? How will property owners gain access to their land? What will the presence of a wall do to property values? How will there be public access to cemeteries and historical and archaeological sites along the river? Will there be access in case of fire or other emergencies on the other side of the fence?

Impact on agriculture. Farming is still the backbone of the economy in the Rio Grande Valley. How much agricultural land will be taken out of production by the wall? How will farmers gain access to their land? To their pumps and irrigation equipment? How will they bring farm equipment onto farmland behind a wall?

Impact on flood control. All the walled areas are in a floodplain. Has the Army Corps or DHS coordinated with FEMA? How will the wall affect the flood control levees? Will the IBWC have access to the levees and input in the construction? Will future widening of the levees result in even more habitat loss on the south side (since the wall is on the north side)?

Relations with Mexico and the rest of the world. Mexico will perceive the border wall as an insult. How will this affect the bi-national relations and cooperation? How will the border wall affect US relations with other countries and its standing in the world? What kind of example is the US setting of a free and open democratic society?

Alternatives to a physical wall. According to the National Environmental Policy Act, alternatives to projects must be explored. What are the comparative costs and impacts of alternatives to a border wall such as "virtual fencing," more boots on the ground, and comprehensive immigration reform?

Problems with the EIS. The EIS is geographically too limited. The EIS should look at total and cumulative impacts into the future. What about the impacts in other areas where a wall is proposed? How will the impacts of this initial proposed fencing change if the total amount of fencing called for by the Secure Fence Act is installed? What will be the environmental impacts of future needs of the wall such as maintenance and lighting?

Inadequate public comment period. The public comment period is less than thirty days. For a project of this magnitude, the public comment period should be extended. In addition, the website that was created to facilitate public comment has been been offline more than it has been up. This makes it difficult to access maps and other information, as well as preventing the public from using the coment feature on the site.

Submit your comments to Customs & Border Patrol by one of the following methods:

~ E-mail:

~ Mail:
Rio Grande Valley Tactical Infrastructure EIS
C/O e2M
2751 Prosperity Avenue, Ste. 200
Fairfax, Virginia 22031

~ Fax: (757)282-7697

~ Electronically: (This website was removed on
Friday, September 28 and may or may not be up again.)

** Be sure to include you name, address and identify your comments as for the RGV Sector EIS.**

The deadline for public comments is October 15, 2007!

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