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Hack v. hicks in the Valley

13 May 2007

Some Washington lobbying group’s mouthpiece named Ira Melman has decided folks in the Valley don’t know anything about conservation. That includes the employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior, I guess.

Today, conservationists, birding experts and tourism officials are alarmed at plans to put up a border security fence in and around an extensive network of refuges laid out on 80 miles of river frontage.

They fear disruption of one of the border’s most successful habitat-restoration projects, involving 90,000 acres that are now home to a long list of wildlife — including endangered wildcats, snakes and plants, and hundreds of species of native birds dependent on the remaining slivers of South Texas.

“Creating a walled-in zoo was not the original intention,” notes Carter Smith, the Texas director of the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, which helped establish a wildlife complex within the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The border fence, Smith says, “runs completely counter to decades of investment in the ecological health of the lands and water of the Rio Grande Valley.”

The fence is a key component of the Secure Border Initiative, a $7.6 billion array of 700 miles of fencing, vehicle barriers, radar installations, lighting, video surveillance and thousands of additional Border Patrol agents aimed at stopping illegal immigration by 2011.

Details of how that initiative would be implemented have surfaced in the past few weeks, including a memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that identified 153 miles of pedestrian fence, much of it in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Officials have since said the map is no longer accurate, and was a “starting point” for discussing locations.

Fast-track concerns

More recently, wildlife officials learned that the fence could impact the refuges much sooner, as the sites could be placed on the “fast track” because the property already is owned by the federal government and no condemnation proceedings are necessary.Alarmed Texas wildlife officials sent out e-mail alerting conservationists of the plans.

“Homeland Security is fast tracking the border fence. Some 82 miles to be built in Texas’ lower three counties, 150 feet wide or more, with a (paved) road along it that they can travel 50 mph on,” reads e-mail from a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department official. “The FWS (Fish & Wildlife Service) refuge tracts will be first to go since they’re already federally owned. Condemnation will proceed apace for the rest.”

Although environmentalists condemn the thought of a fence on habitat grounds, advocates for reduced immigration insist it is necessary.

“These people who are worried about the environmental impact of the fence don’t seem terribly concerned about hundreds of thousands of people traipsing across wilderness lands, leaving tons of garbage behind,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Suddenly they get concerned when there’s an effort to stop illegal immigration.”

Crossing through refuge

Just how many people illegally cross into the country via the refuge is not known.”There is no question we have undocumented migrants who come through the refuge,” said Nancy Brown, refuge outreach officer. “Like everywhere else on the river, we have crossings.”

Assembling the refuge complex, a mix of dozens of large and small tracts, was a complex task that took nearly three decades and cost taxpayers $70 million alone for land purchases, refuge officials said. During that time, thousands of Valley volunteers, including schoolchildren, pitched in to develop it and watched as the land slowly transformed into native habitat.

The Rev. Tom Pincelli, a Catholic priest and avid birder who chairs the American Birding Association, notes the irony of fencing land after such a financial and personal investment.

“They’ve opened up a tremendous amount of land, and eco-tourism is growing by leaps and bounds. This is one more step backward,” the Harlingen priest said, referring to the $125 million pumped into the Valley economy each year by nature tourists. “And the municipalities, right and left, are dead-set against it.”

Refuge officials learned of the fencing during a May 4 meeting between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official Kenneth Merritt, who is the project leader for the South Texas Refuge complex, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials who are talking to other landowners in the Valley.

“We’re expecting if there isn’t a real change in the thinking, we’re going to have fences,” said Merritt, adding it is too early to discuss their impact on the refuge complex. “I still don’t know where the fence is going to be.”

So, who you gonna trust. Catholic priests, wildlife experts and the folks who live here or a paid shill for an organization that even the Wall Street Journal considers racist and accuses of very bad research?

Does anyone know if FAIR’s Ira Melman is also Ira “Bud” Melman formerly of Clear Channel Communications radio? This guy doesn’t look like he’d survive very long in a Wildlife Refuge, and would probably be more scared of snakes, or bugs than “illegal aliens”.

I can be a pain in the ass for a lot less than Ira. Keep the Mex Files quasi-solvent:

xxx

One Comment leave one →
  1. CM Clark permalink
    14 May 2007 4:48 am

    My personal feeling about the fence is that if we put one around George W, Bush and Dick “Dead Eye” Cheney, the homeland will be a lot more safe. Putting one along the border with Mexico will not keep out immigrants any more than it will keep out cocaine. And if we do keep immigrants out, it will not make us more safe, but it might make us more boring. I am not sure we can afford that.

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