The Wildlife Society Publishes New Position Statement Impacts of Border Fences on Wildlife Statement recommends support of and research into alternatives to impenetrable barriers
The Wildlife Society (TWS) recently published a new position statement on the impact of international border security measures on wildlife. The TWS statement addresses how impenetrable border security measures such as fences pose significant risk to the wildlife that migrate or roam across international borders, and notes that alternatives to such measures need to be investigated and implemented.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 mandates the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to construct steel fences three to four meters high along large sections of the U.S.-Mexico border. Such fences, while restricting human movement, can also significantly limit demographic and genetic interchange among wildlife populations and prevent species from shifting ranges during normal seasonal movement or in response to local weather conditions or a changing climate.
The Real ID Act of 2005 allows for the exemption of all border roads and fences from environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. As a result, there is no opportunity to assess impacts to wildlife and habitats, or to design or adopt mitigation measures that could protect both the border and wildlife.
Impenetrable fences could cause significant disruptions to migration habits and gene flow between many wildlife populations . The U.S.-Mexico border forms a boundary area for at least 14 designated conservation areas, and the U.S.-Canada border crosses at least 25 designated conservation areas. At least 20 different mammal species-including jaguarundi, Sonoran pronghorn, and desert tortoise-cross the habitats divided by these international borders.
Paul Beier, a wildlife expert at Northern Arizona University, notes that gene flow between natural populations is critically important to species survival. "Recent restoration of gene flow to isolated populations of bighorn sheep, wolves, and Florida panthers has shown the dramatic importance of gene flow in wild populations," he says, "eliminating heart defects and male sterility in Florida panthers, and tripling the survival rate of newborn panthers to breeding age."
In its new position statement, TWS articulates several recommendations, including: 1) repealing the Real ID Act; 2) supporting legislation requiring the study of wildlife impacts of border security measures; 3) supporting the implementation of the measures outlined here within appropriate federal agencies; 4) issuing a moratorium on the construction of additional border fences until wildlife impacts can be studied; and 5) supporting funding for and research into the impacts of security measures and possible alternatives to purportedly "impenetrable" fences that may have more affect on wildlife than on human border crossings.
About The Wildlife Society: Founded in 1937, The Wildlife Society (TWS) is an international non-profit association made up of more than 9,000 professionals dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education. The mission of TWS is to represent and serve the professional community of scientists, managers, educators, technicians, planners, and others who work to study, manage, and conserve wildlife and their habitats worldwide.